‘Hitting rock bottom’. Possibly the deepest form of failure. Certainly one of the most renowned failures to embrace in order to turn one’s life around. But, still perhaps one often misunderstood and therefore its embrace is kept out of reach to many who need it. Many people conjure up an image of a dirty, incoherent bum sleeping on the streets, but in reality it can be something much less obvious. It is when one loses the things one cares most about. The trouble, sometimes, is figuring out what that stuff is.
‘Everything Must Go’ is a colourful, even comic portrayal of Step 0 in the 12 Step programme. Will Ferrell plays an alcoholic who spends the entire film coming to terms with his latest and most profound lapse. Set smack in the middle of a cozy middle class neighbourhood, instead of the backstreets of some ghetto, it brings the experience of hitting rock bottom close to the familiar surroundings of most of the viewers. It shines a soft and sympathetic light on the ordeal making it more identifiable than the stereotypical portrayal of desperate misery (eg. Trainspotting). The metaphor of the faux yard sale is a fun and rich vehicle for many insights – letting go, the stuff of one’s life, priorities, the price on must pay, the trade-offs one must make.
Despite the desperate circumstances of the protagonist Nick, the film still underscores my‘Second Law of Failure’ (“Things and People Are Not Failures”). In fact, as the film unfolds, Nick reveals more and more of the ‘diamond in the rough’ qualities to his character and heart. Without divulging any of the plot, it becomes clear that he has failed himself more than anything or anyone else.
Script even includes several gems of an embracing failure. When Kenny, a lonely teenager who has befriended Nick and grows to look up to him as a mentor, confides that the other kids make fun of him being fat, Nick doesn’t coddle him patronisingly. Instead, he launches into an affectonate tirade of his fat jokes that draws Kenny in until Kenny realises how silly and harmless these words really are.
And finally the sterling quote, “My Dad always used to say, ‘The good without the bad ain’t no good at all.’”
Two thumbs up for this film about everything being going down.