Starring in Everything Must Go, an indie drama about an alcoholic who loses his job and wife and decides to live on his lawn while he sells his possessions, could be a great step in that direction. The script for the film is based on a Raymond Carver short story "Why Don't You Dance?" (previously adapted into a 2004 Australian short that our own Jeffrey M. Anderson fell in love with) and was included on the 2008 Black List of best unproduced screenplays (the same year Up in the Air, Inglourious Basterds, Cop Out and The Fourth Kind were on it). Its writer, Dan Rush, is also directing the film, and now Rebecca Hall (The Prestige) has been cast as a new neighbor who befriends Ferrell's character.
The reason i like the idea of Ferrell and Hall starring opposite each other is they've each previously played the role of a Woody Allen proxy. Ferrell played "the Woody character" in Melinda and Melinda, while Hall was basically the filmmaker's surrogate in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Throw John Cusack, Kenneth Branagh and Jason Biggs into this movie and you've got a Woody Allen proxy party. Wait, no, I recommend Stanley Tucci instead of Biggs. In all seriousness, though, Hall is an interesting actress (I haven't made up my mind on whether she's talented or not), and I'm anxious to see how well she works with Ferrell in his most serious role yet.
According to Deadline New York, Laura Dern is also in negotiations to join the film, I'm guessing as Ferrell's wife. Michael Peña (Observe and Report) and Christopher Wallace, the teenage son of The Notorious B.I.G. and Faith Evans, are signed on. Everything Must Go is being produced by Temple Hill Entertainment, which recently gave us Dear John and is involved in the Twilight franchise. But I have a feeling this project, despite Ferrell starring, won't be as geared toward teens.
Unless those teens are curious about following Ferrell on a new path that could one day lead to an Oscar, a la Hanks. He has already been nominated for two Golden Globes, though both were for relatively comic performances. Could members of the Academy ever take Ferrell seriously, though, or will he end up nomination-less like Carrey, who has been excellent in dramatic parts? What do you think? Will you be able to accept him in more roles where he's not stripping down to his undies (or less) or screaming like a child?