Who's In It: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Michael Pena, Laura Dern, Stephen Root, Christopher Jordan Wallace
The Basics: Nick Halsey (Ferrell) is having a really horrible day. The smug young jerk at his office just laid him off, marking his years of service with the gift of a flimsy Swiss army knife. He comes home to find that his wife has put all his belongings in the front yard and has changed the locks--and just to make sure he's extra screwed, she froze the checking account and credit cards too. Since he doesn't want to leave his stuff, he remains static while the world walks by. This is how he meets his new neighbor Samantha (Hall) and protege Kenny (Wallace).
What's The Deal: Well, if anyone can make alcoholism and loneliness relatable, Will Ferrell can. This movie is based on a short story by Raymond Carver, and if you're familiar with his work, you will understand why his beautifully painful stories usually make you want to rock yourself in a corner until you find meaning in your empty, peculiar life. The dude is heavy. Writer and director Dan Rush expands "Why Don't You Dance" in an interesting way here, but ultimately, does nothing surprising. It was a great choice to make the film feel like 5 days in someone's life, where you can identify a small shift in the main character's psyche, but no huge "I fully understand the error of my ways" arc. Since it lacks the poignancy of Carver's work, however, you aren't left feeling any sharp pangs of emotion either.
Chicks Be Crazy?: Usually if a movie has grabbed me, I have next to no trouble suspending disbelief and not questioning certain script choices until after the credits roll. This movie from the get-go had me saying, "Wait a minute..." The premise that a wife wants to leave her husband for being an alcoholic adulterer is totally believable--but would she really lock him out of his house and bank accounts and skip town? What purpose does that serve? I know that hurting people hurt people, but there didn't seem to be a strategic benefit to behaving this way. If we're living in that kind of world, the ending should have been more explosive.
Notorious In Training: A strong part of the film is watching Ferrell relate to neighborhood kid Kenny, played by Christopher Jordan Wallace. The son of Faith Evans and The Notorious B.I.G. makes a good case for talent being genetic, because he is precious and confident in this film, and I wanted to see more of him. It seems like these "middle aged men having to take life inventory" movies always have a kid in them, and Wallace stands out as being one to watch.
Attention, Management: Please keep encouraging Will Ferrell to do movies like this. When his penchant for ringing cowbells or calling someone a pirate hooker is kept under wraps, he is such an fascinating actor to watch. He can't omit his sense of humor from things entirely, but that makes him relatable and even more riveting. His big-budget comedy shtick is tired, but movies like this prove that he is not done as a leading man. Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to go re-watch Stranger Than Fiction now.