Will Ferrell is a complicated guy. Just when you think you have him pegged as a goofy lump, he comes along and does something dramatic that proves you wrong. Where most of his filmography can be found in the “stupid comedy” section, he has successfully jumped into drama once before with the film “Stranger Than Fiction.” In this little indie drama, Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, a guy who has his entire life go to crap in one single day. First he is fired from his job. Then he comes home to find all of his stuff on the front lawn and his wife wanting a divorce. And soon after that he returns to the bottle in order to cope.
Sound like a Ferrell comedy? Nope. And it never really tries to become one either. This is heady stuff and nothing here really screams “comedy.” There are a couple of scenes that garnish a laugh or two, but for the most part, Ferrell’s “in-your-face” comedy is toned completely down as he languishes in his own self pity, sitting in his lounge chair on his front lawn drinking himself into a stupor for 4 days as he contemplates his future. This could have easily been one of the most depressing movies of 2010 if not for the presence of Ferrell. Given this material as it is, any other actor would have probably come across as suicidal. But because of his other films, I never once saw Nick as the suicidal type. And as the movie goes on, that’s a good thing. This character is lost…not desperate. And it’s because of Ferrell’s ability to make you sympathize with his character that makes this film bearable to watch.
Not that there aren’t other fine performances here because there are. Nick meets a new neighbor (played by Rebecca Hall) who is pregnant and waiting for her husband to arrive in Phoenix from New York. He also makes friends with bike-riding Kenny (played by the son of rapper Notorious B.I.G. and Faith Evans, Christopher Jordan Wallace), who helps him set up his yard sale and becomes possibly the only true friend that he has. Appearances by Lauren Dern, Stephen Root and Michael Pena pepper the rest of the film and make it worthy of your time.
This movie doesn’t set its goals very high. It is what it is and I imagine it didn’t take much time to get this film shot and in the can pretty quickly. That doesn’t mean its sloppy though. Actually, it’s a tight little drama that doesn’t really answer a lot of questions but fills your time with quality performances and that makes it noteworthy. It’s not Oscar worthy but it’s also not a bad choice for a nightly rental.
Overall Rating: C+
10 Second Review: Will Ferrell is former alcoholic Nick Halsey who gets fired and has his wife dump him on the same day. With all of his stuff in the lawn and locked out of the house, Nick soul searches while others look on. It’s not a comedy…but it’s a lot better than “The Other Guys.”