Who's In It: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Michael Pena, Laura Dern
The Basics: Nick (Ferrell) is having the worst day of his already crappy life. He's an alcoholic, finally fired from his executive-level job after one too many hangovers and failed rehab attempts. And to ice the sadness cake, his recovering alcoholic wife--always off screen--decides to divorce him by throwing all of his possessions onto the lawn, changing the locks and cutting him off from their money. Then he sits outside his own home for a week, getting drunk in a recliner.
What's The Deal: If I were feeling less forgiving about this movie I'd wonder why Ferrell's character didn't just write "METAPHORIC GARAGE SALE" on the neighborhood signs he posts for the movie's climactic, life-gear-shifting event. I'd also wonder what Raymond Carver would think about a movie that takes one of his short stories--famous for their extremely low-key approach to catharsis and emotional content--and cuddles it up by giving everyone a safety net and gentle forgiveness while it lands with a soft final thud. But I'm currently in a forgiving mood because the stuff that seems like cheating also still feels like it was done with a restrained hand. As feel-good indies go, it's not very annoying at all.
Not Unexpected But Still Welcome: It's a nice change-up to see Will Ferrell starring in a straightforward drama. He leaned in that direction with 2006's Stranger Than Fiction and this film's even more determined to deliver a version of Ferrell you're not used to. He can't help but be observantly funny from time to time, so the story allows for that instead of trying to beat back his natural tendencies. But this is nothing like Anchorman, just for the record; don't assume you know what's about to go down just because you think you know the guy.
Decently Supported By:The under-appreciated Laura Dern, who shows up for a moment as a 20-years-too-late high school crush, and by young Christopher Wallace, as a lonely neighborhood kid. If his name sounds familiar to you it's because it was also the real name of his dad, The Notorious B.I.G.
One Other Beef, Set Decoration-Related. I Know Lots of People Will Think Of This As Nitpicky But I Don't: You're meant to understand Ferrell as a troubled but still reasonably successful exec with what the movie explains as $45,000 of disposable income in a wife-frozen bank account. So why does everything on the lawn, possessions that you're led to believe furnished their once-shared home of 2010 or whenever, already look like vintage garage sale items of the 1970s instead of modern goods bought by regular suburban people? I spent the whole film wondering about that.