Written & Directed By: Dan Rush
Based on the Short Story “Why Don’t You Dance” By: Raymond Carver
Cinematography By: Michael Barrett
Editor: Sandra Adair
Cast: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Christopher C.J. Wallace, Laura Dern, Michael Pena, Stephen Root, Glenn Howerton
After Nick is fired from his sales job, mostly because of his penchant for alcohol, he comes home and finds that his wife has kicked him and all of his stuff out of the house and onto the front lawn. He is pretty intent on just sitting in his chair, drinking beer, on the lawn. His cop friend, Frank Garcia, thinks he should at least pretend to have a yard sale to make it legal. He slowly starts making friends with a neighborhood kid who needs something to do, and a pregnant wife who has just moved in across the street, and Nick finds himself moving on and selling all his stuff.
The film is a perfect vehicle for Will Ferrell. As It is more low key allowing him to play a sad sack, destructive character. While also giving him scenes of humor and allowing it to balance out. Though like the direction it is more subtle. The film is surprisingly simplistic.
Will Ferrell stays unpredictable though more known for comedy. He tends to pop in in films that are dramatic, in Spanish, stage bound or at least seems to challenge himself to keep it interesting. Here with this film though it is more centered dramatically. It has some laughs. He doesn’t miss a beat and stays believable in both genres.
The film isn’t that strong nor heavy handed. It feels more pleasing then anything. It remains small scale. Yet surprisingly generous and very earnest. Tender to a point, but not afraid to approach serious subjects and themes. Which is why i can see that the screenplay was included on the 2008 Blacklist. a list of the “most liked” unmade scripts of the year.
The movie is based on the short story “Why Don’t You Dance?” by Raymond Carver – an American author and poet. Director Dan Rush asked permission of Mr. Carver’s widow, Tess Gallagher, before extending the story and adding additional characters.
The film has plenty of moments that last more than the film overall in your memory. Like once sober his ex co-worker played by Glenn Howerton (Perfecting Corporate yuppie weasel) sending him a drink. As he knows or believes the man will screw-up again as always.
It might seem cliche or annoying to pair him with a child actor sidekick, but it actually works to open him and the film up. As we learn he is a father, so they it shows he did have what it takes. He just choose not to. just as the film shows his sensitive side by his friendship. Not a romance with his pregnant neighbor. Which is a nice yet necessary touch. As it shows the ability that he can be a warm character and a gentleman. Not an all around bastard as we are told to believe.
The film has nice performances from Michael Pena. Solid as always never playing to type and showing a bright warm range. And also Rebecca Hall who it is lovely to see on screen. yet never seems to be able to find that breakout role.
It’s a nice touch that we only get to witness him slightly as far as bad behavior. Yet we are told on many occasions how bad he was. So much so that we never see or meet his wife. Who has left and banished him.
It’s not a challenging film. Yet it makes it’s statement and like the short story it is based upon by Raymond Carver, nourishing to a point and enriching. It’s not mean spirited. Not exactly a crowd pleaser, but has a positive message of redemption without getting preachy.
Just as all of the items are sold and cleaned out. So are his problems and issues. His so called baggage. Leaving him free to still be haunted, but able to start over with a clean slate and not so much clutter hanging around. Nor for him to hang on to. He can let go though don’t know the future. Yet has enough to start over.
The film Also has a warmth to it. Almost like a western with a gunslinger looking to slow down and maybe put down his guns. Yet helps those around him. Who helped him to calm down and get back on his feet. Only without all of the violence usually associated with the genre and the time period of course.