Drama/Comedy, 97 Minutes, 2010
Whenever a traditionally comedic actor (especially a traditionally gonzo, off-the-wall comedic character actor) moves into more serious things I always think that there must at least one poor schmuck that just saw the name on the marquee/box and grabbed it because they really, really needed a laugh. Maybe he had just found out something horrible and needed to take his mind off it; maybe all of life’s normal, tiny horrible things just piled up on him and he just needed one break.
Whatever the reason he saw “Will Ferrell”, paid the price of admission and plopped down to watch Ron Burgundy, Buddy the Elf, Frank the Tank or even Ricky Bobby. Five minutes into the movie however they come to the slow realization that all they’re going to get is Nick Halsey: a completely fucked-up alcoholic who just lost his job, his wife and his home.
I feel bad for that guy because he’s didn’t get to laugh much – but on the plus-side he did get to watch an excellent little movie.
Nick is not having a good week. After falling off the wagon (again) and losing his job his wife has had enough and dumps all of his worldly possessions on the lawn. To stave off the police and his neighbors he pretends to be having a yard sale which forces him to reevaluate his life and his motivations.
Much of the plot is relatively standard – off-the-shelf even. You’ll recognize the tropes immediately but not mind because they’re so delicately rendered. Through the artifacts of his life you see how Nick became the man he is and through the eyes of others you see the man that he could be.
If there’s a failing here it’s that too little time is spent with his possessions when the core of the movie is an exploration of how we end up defining ourselves by our material gains. What is there is interesting and meaningful but there’s simply not as much depth as there might have been.
While there are moments of laughter this is a deeply human drama. A few people will just be upset that there are no fart jokes. Most everybody else will find something to identify with even if they’re not happy with the comparison.