Lately, I’ve been undertaking a near Herculean exercise regimen called Tabata intervals. In these devilish intervals, you engage in 20 seconds of to-the-limit cardio, rest completely for 10 seconds, and repeat. For four straight minutes. Initially, it doesn’t seem so bad. Twenty seconds isn’t so long, you think. This will be no problem. Around a minute in a half, your heart is beating out of your chest and the ten seconds that at first was a nice relief is now cruel. At the end of those four minutes, the only thing left to do is collapse, catch your breath, and feel like a superhero. (If you want to undertake these, by the way, they are not recommended to do more than once a week.)
Dan Rush’s debut film, Everything Must Go, was, in many ways, like these intervals. Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is an alcoholic, who, after relapsing on a business trip, is fired finds all his belongings on his front lawn and all the locks changed. His wife (also a recovering alcoholic) gets wind of the relapse and decides enough is enough. The rest of the movie takes place will Halsey on his lawn surrounded by the only things he owns, drunk, miserable, and fighting to take it one day at a time.
At times (many, in fact), it’s hard to watch. We go see long stretches of self-deprecation; Halsey is a kind of put-together drunk, not out of control or obnoxious or violent, just the kind of guy who prioritizes his PBR above all else, the most heart-breaking kind of drunk. Just when you think you’ve had enough, that your own heart can’t take the ache of watching this man fight and lose, fight and lose, stop fighting and keep losing, we have punctuated moments of relief (it might be a stretch to call them happiness). The young female neighbor across the street who offers conversation, the young boy who wants to learn to play catch, these are the only things keeping the viewer in their seats. These truncated moments of relief are just enough to bring you back from tears (if you are, in fact, the kind of person inclined to cry in movie theaters) but not enough to be comfortable.
In the end, those brief moments just weren’t enough. As the credits were rolling, I felt exhausted. I had been pushed to the edge and then pulled back just briefly—so briefly—I was ultimately left with one foot on and one foot off the proverbial ledge. It’s hard to say I liked it (though I really, really did), but I would absolutely recommend it. While the end was a little made-for-Hollywood and the supporting characters a bit flat, Ferrell was enchanting and proved his chops extend beyond the comfort zone of SNL-esque bits. It isn’t punchy or particularly unique, but it’s solid and good. Not unlike a taxing work out, this movie will leave you feeling a bit sore, but satisfied.