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“Everything Must Go,” Reviewed

“Everything Must Go,” Reviewed (photo)

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There is a scene in every Will Ferrell movie where Ferrell’s character hits rock bottom and all the puffed-up narcissism gets stripped away to reveal the pathetic loser underneath. Ron Burgundy gets fired, grows a beard, and drinks milk in the hot San Diego sun. Ricky Bobby loses his wife to his best friend, becomes terrified of his race car, and watches a French driver replace him as NASCAR’s hottest star. Brennan Huff is forced to get a job, wear a tie, and plan the largest helicopter leasing event in the Western hemisphere. Ferrell’s new movie, “Everything Must Go,” is that scene stretched out to feature length. In one terrible day, Ferrell’s Nick Halsey gets fired from his job, left by his wife, and locked out of his house. With no money — his wife has cancelled his credit cards and frozen their joint bank account — and nowhere to go, he reacquaints himself with his alcoholism and hangs out on his lawn, where his wife has dumped all his earthly possessions.

All the earlier Ferrell movies I mentioned above were comedies. “Everything Must Go” is certainly funny, but it’s more a sensitive drama with the occasional jolt of humor by Ferrell, who’s playing a man a lot closer to the “I drive a Dodge Stratus!” dude than Robert Goulet. The biggest joke in the movie isn’t a joke at all, it’s a simple, wordless look Ferrell gives to another man after he’s been caught with his pants down. That single look really sums up what sort of film “Everything Must Go” is in a nutshell: quiet and knowing.

I do not subscribe to the theory that drama is more valuable than comedy, or that quote-unquote serious actors are more important than comedic ones. As a well-established Ferrell apologist, I would be quite content to watch him do bread-and-butter broad comedies until the end of time, and to be perfectly honest if he’s going to make me cry, I’d rather he was doing it by making me laugh so hard that I can’t breathe. But nevertheless, Ferrell gives a very good performance here, sad without being saccharine and never showy in that “Look at me! I’m an actor now!” sort of way. I hope we don’t lose Papa Burgundy. But I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Nick Halsey occasionally as well.

Halsey’s neighbors aren’t too keen to watch a guy drink himself into oblivion on his front lawn, but fortunately for Nick his AA sponsor Frank (Michael Peña) works for the local police department. He finds a loophole in the law that says anyone can operate a yard sale for five straight days before the police can shut them down. Which means Nick now has five days to get rid of the crap on his lawn, get himself together, and find something to do with his life. With no car, no phone, and no house that won’t be easy.

Besides Frank, Nick’s only human connections are two other lonely members of the Phoenix suburbs. There’s Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a pregnant woman who’s moved out West without her husband to get their house in order while he finishes up some business back in New York City. And then there’s Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace, son of the Notorious B.I.G. and Faith Evans), who’s alone all day while his mother works as a nurse. You might think you know what to expect from these relationships, but the screenplay by first-time director Dan Rush from a short story by Raymond Carver, might surprise you.

There are some exchanges in “Everything Must Go” that are big and dramatic in a way that feels more like beats from a screenwriting manual than conversations pulled from real life; we definitely didn’t need to hear Nick scream “I’m no different than any of you, I just don’t hide in my house!” to his neighbors, for example. The movie works much better in minor keys, letting Ferrell plaintively riff on his established persona while bouncing off his fine supporting cast. The finest sequence is perhaps the least consequential to the narrative. Nick finds a sweet dedication in his high school yearbook and seeks out the woman who wrote it. The friend, a single mother who lives nearby, is played wonderfully by Laura Dern. Their scene, about life’s adventures and disappointments, is awkward and tender and beautifully melancholy.

Dern’s character says that good without bad ain’t no good at all. So perhaps “Everything Must Go”‘s minor flaws serve to accentuate just how precise and moving the rest of it is. It begins where most Will Ferrell movies end. It could be the beginning of a whole new phase of his career.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.