Starring John Krasinski, Sharlto Copley, Margo Martindale, Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins, Josh Groban, Charlie Day
“You won’t know, until you get there, that you are ok.” That’s the most prolific phrase from a script by James C. Strouse (Grace is Gone) that can be applied to whatever the audience might be dealing with when they watch his new film. Comedian turned serious actor John Krasinski (13 Hours, Away We Go) makes his feature film directing debut on a project that’s unbalanced to a spectacular degree. The real surprise with The Hollars is that despite obvious flaws, including feeling like a television show, is the emotional wallop that peaks out between the laughter and uneven character development. It isn’t difficult to see why this film could overcome inexperienced filmmaking qualities, just look at that cast list.
Don Hollar (Jenkins) can’t understand why his wife of 38 years is laying on the bathroom floor. Sally (Martindale) had a seizure due to a brain tumor that has been growing for years. Don dealing with a failing family plumbing business just blamed his wife’s numb toes, partial blindness and other ailments on her obesity. Now he feels terrible with the news. The eldest son Ron (Copley) was fired by his father, divorced from his wife and now lives at home again with his parents. Their youngest son John (Krasinski) moved out of the dried up little town to pursue his career in New York. John’s pregnant girlfriend (Kendrick) surprises him at the office with packed bags and the bad news that his mother is in the hospital.
Every moment Martindale is on screen the film is at its best.
The men are weak as dishwater while the woman in this film are pillars of strength and clarity. That isn’t coincidence, as we learn each male character’s downfall or handicap, there is a female in their life to pick them up. From Don’s reaction to his wife in the floor, to Sally’s reaction before surgery, or the dinner with John and his old flame from high school; The Hollars offers new talking points on familiar subjects. Like many tragic comedies dealing with family matters, the script overcompensates for sadness with manic and chaotic humor that’s often a distraction. Krasinski’s involvement both in front and behind the camera on The Office is likely the culprit for The Hollars unnecessary stupidity in certain scenes.
“Terrifying, to learn this late in life what you should have done,” Don says in one of his many emotional moments. Oscar nominee Jenkins (The Visitor) perfects his characters awkward timing. However, it’s the actors’ inability to shed actual tears that hurts his performance. On the other hand, Kendrick (finally redeeming herself for 3 of the worst films in 2016) cries on command and plays one of her sweetest characters. Krasinski, a far more experienced talent on screen, is also in the right place emotionally. Every moment Martindale (August: Osage County, Million Dollar Baby), is on screen the film is at its best. Her words of wisdom, infectious laughter, and the way Sally is the least worried person in the hospital room is grounded thanks to Martindale’s performance. The charm of The Hollars is how it will speak to so many different viewers, for so many different reasons.
An uneven film that needs a more experienced director but still manages to deliver an emotional impact thanks to the script and performances.