Sundance Review: The Hollars
There's nothing new about The Hollars. The going back home and visiting your family movie has certainly been done before...so the question is if actor and director John Krasinki is able to elevate the overly familiar material. I believe he is, for the most part, successful in his endeavors as he's created a warm and funny movie...yet somehow he winds up with a good film instead of a great one. The reason for this, I 100% believe, is due to the script.
The Hollars tells the story of John Hollar (John Krasinski) a man living in New York City who is about to become a father, but struggles with the commitment of marriage to his girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick.) Suddenly he's summoned back home (wherever that is...) when his mother is diagnosed with a brain tumor and must undergo a life-risking surgery. While home, he realizes the lives of everyone in his past is basically in shambles. His father is constantly a crying mess on the verge of bankruptcy. His brother was laid off and now with is free time exhibits stalkerish tendencies. His former flame might be unhappily married. And his mother now questions all of her life choices. Witnessing everyone else's troubles, John must decide if he wants to stay on the path where his life is going.
Krasinski has assembled himself quite a fine cast, with veteran supporting players. Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins, Margo Martindale, Sharlto Copley, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Charlie Day, Josh Groban and Mary Kay Place all do their best with the roles they're given. The problem is, a couple of these roles are painfully underwritten at the expense of the story. In particular, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is reduced to one scene essentially using her as a punchline, when her character could have been far more integral and key to John's character arc. In a large ensemble piece this happens all the time, but in this case, there was definitely material that could have been cut to incorporate a more meaningful arc between Winstead and Krasinski (I'm looking at you Sharlto Copley and all your cringe-worthy stalking scenes.) Truly, this movie was a couple rewrites away from being great.
Still, it's difficult to be too hard on the film when it is a pretty enjoyable watch. John Krasinski, as always is so likable and warm, so as a result the movie feels that way too. As Krasinski himself mentioned in the Q&A afterward, the film often takes sharp hairpin turns between comedy and drama, and I must say it is pretty successful at its attempts. For having heavy material, the film definitely has more than enough humor to lighten everything up. It's basically movie comfort food. And with its easy listening indie music soundtrack, everything goes down smoothly. So when it comes down to it, there are two things really you need to know about The Hollars. Is it original? No. Is it enjoyable? Definitely!