By Pamela Zoslov
Writer-director Dan Rush has taken a short story by Raymond Carver, the influential minimalist author, and created a lovely, mournful little film about an alcoholic on a downward spiral. Though not the first Carver film adaptation, or even the first adaptation of “Why Don’t You Dance?” (an Australian short was called Everything Goes), it may be the most expansive treatment a seven-page story has ever received. The story serves as a skeleton upon which Rush drapes a thoughtfully written, fully realized drama.
Will Ferrell, a non-intuitive casting choice, again demonstrates his capability for dramatic acting as Nick, a salesman who is fired for chronic alcoholism and arrives home to find his wife gone, locks changed and all his possessions — from his ski machine to his father’s LP collection — on the lawn. Camped outside on his recliner and chugging endless Pabst cans, Nick enlists the help of Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace), a neglected neighborhood kid, in conducting the yard sale of his life.
Although many things happen – Nick teaches Kenny salesmanship and baseball, befriends a pregnant neighbor (Rebecca Hall) and reconnects with a high school admirer (Laura Dern) – the film remains quiet and relatively static, staying true to Carver’s brevity and theme of lonely alcoholic desperation.