Funnyman Will Ferrell ably tackles more serious fare in this low-key story of an alcoholic executive who is fired... only to discover himself by selling his most prized possessions in a yard sale. Striking up unlikely friendships with Rebecca Hall's unhappy pregnant mom and a lonely teenage neighbour, he reassesses his life from an easy chair dumped on his front lawn by his estranged wife. Sweet-natured and whimsical, this gives Ferrell the chance to deliver an all-too-rare performance of fine-tuned nuance.
Will Ferrell's latest foray into a movie which doesn't call on his slapstick skills begs the question why he doesn't do more serious films in the first place.
While never completely neglecting his comedy mojo, Ferrell delivers an understated pathos as Nick Halsey, a time-serving "regional vice president" of a bland corporation who decide to get rid of him after one too many alcohol-related incidents.
Arriving home, he discovers that his wife has disappeared after changing the locks at their suburban bungalow...but not she dumped all his prized possessions - beer cooler, comfy leather chair, prized baseball and box of Playboy magazines - on the lawn.
Seeking solace in a six-pack, things go from bad to worse when he's forced to sleep in the front garden and his company - in a sterling show of corporate spite - send a jobsworth round to take his car back.
Stranded amongst the tat of a lifetime spread out in front of his locked house, Nick is obliged to start taking a greater interest in what's going on around him - the latchkey teenager (Wallace) constantly cycling by and the unhappy pregnant mother (Hall) who has moved in alone across the road.
It's these new friendships - and secrets revealed by his new al fresco lifestyle (his next-door neighbour and his trophy wife's penchant for S&M) - that oblige him to look at his life afresh. Together with the cathartic exercise of selling off his gear, he moves cautiously towards a new start.
Debut writer/director Dan Rush's decision to use Ferrell (whose last "serious" film was 2006's Stranger Than Fiction) pays dividends a performance that goes beyond the cliched tears of a clown to something a little more different and affecting.
Strong support comes from Wallace and Hall who act as well-meaning foils to the initially bitter Nick and there's a beautifully-judged run-in with one of Nick's old schoolfriends, played by Laura Dern.
Slight but sweet, it's a film that whispers in your ear rather than shouting from the rooftops.