| Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell from "The Office" and "Stranger Than Fiction"), 38, is having a real bummer of a day. After 16 years as a sales executive with the same company, he gets fired. He receives a Swiss Army pocket knife with his name on it as a parting gift. He drives up to his suburban Arizona home and sees all his worldly possessions strewn across the front lawn. All the locks have been changed, and his wife Catherine (who never appears in the movie) has left him a note on the front door. He starts drinking beer and sleeps on his recliner in the yard. When the sprinkler system comes on the following morning, Nick wakes up to what he thought was just a bad dream.
Dan Rush makes his feature film debut as director and screenwriter of this drama loosely based on Raymond Carver's 1981 short story "Why Don't You Dance?" The movie unfolds over the next five days primarily in Nick's front yard in the Arcadia neighborhood of Greater Phoenix.
Nick, a recovering alcoholic, has recently fallen off the wagon during a business trip in Denver. His AA sponsor over the past year is Frank Garcia (Michael Pena from "The Lincoln Lawyer" and "World Trade Center"), a police detective. Frank tells Nick that it is illegal to live on your front yard. He buys him five days with a permit to hold an estate sale.
Nick befriends Kenny Loftus (Christopher Jordan Wallace), a neighborhood kid who agrees to help Nick with the sale if Nick will teach him how to play baseball.
Nick also gets acquainted Samantha (Rebecca Hall from "The Town" and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), a pregnant lady who moves in across the street. She is a photography teacher relocating from New York anxiously awaiting her husband's arrival.
With time on his hands, Nick watches old home movies, looks through his high school yearbook and even visits Delilah (Laura Dern from "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" and "October Sky"), a high school classmate. Delilah, who hasn't seen Nick in 20 years, tells him he always had a good heart and to call her again when he gets his life back on track.
This low-key movie is slow going after the novelty of Nick's absurd predicament wears off. It is hard to gain any sympathy for this sad sack who made his bed and now has to sleep in it. This downbeat tale of despair has an ambiguous ending.
This leading role is quite a departure for Ferrell who most often appears in comedies. He does an admirable job, but it makes you appreciate even more Nicolas Cage's Oscar-winning performance as an alcoholic in "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995).
The movie premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. It is opening at the Glenwood Arts, AMC Studio 30, AMC Barrywoods 24 and Cinemark Palace at the Plaza for a limited engagement.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"