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Hollars, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Quality comedy, decent drama - it does better than all right."
4 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2016: That "The Hollars" is an independent film in this day and age is a sort of indictment on the film industry: Its story is neither complicated nor difficult to relate to, the style is far from experimental, and the cast is almost entirely made up of familiar names and faces (if not necessarily people that will draw a guaranteed audience on their own). It is quality mainstream entertainment, and it's kind of weird that the people involved had to make it outside of a system that was traditionally built on movies like this.

The set-up is pretty simple; the Hollar family lives somewhere in the Midwest and, like many, is kind of squeaking by: Divorced older son Ron (Sharlto Copley) has moved back in with parents Don (Richard Jenkins) and Sally (Margo Martindale), though Don's plumbing business is on the verge of bankruptcy. An awkward family moment ends with Sally having a seizure, and younger son John (John Krasinski) flies out from New York to be with them, with super-competent and very pregnant girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick) seeing to everything.

Not that John is a dope or anything; though he's got a tendency to stumble through situations, it's generally material that has him looking a little goofy though basically harmless. Krasinski (who also directs) is pretty good at playing this sort of fallible straight man, especially since he's clever enough to avoid winking when the script has John tripped up by being honest about the things that usually causes romantic-comedy characters trouble because they don't mention it. It's kind of impressive that he gets quite a bit out of his scenes with Margo Martindale; she is also playing the sensible one, but the affection between this mother and son plays out as their own relationship as opposed to eye-rolling over what doofuses the people around them can be.

And there's plenty of silliness for them to react to. Sharlto Copley probably gets the most to sell; Ron crosses the line between dumb-but-kind-of-lovable to worrisome on a regular basis, and it's up to Copley to mostly keep the audience in this guy's corner despite the fact that subtlety is not really the actor's strong suit. Richard Jenkins is working against his strengths as well; he's a naturalistic actor often called upon here to be kind of clueless or cry at the drop of a handkerchief. They both do these jobs fairly well, and being so broad at other points let's Jenkins be sneakily terrific when Don needs to be taken seriously. Charlie Day and Mary Elizabeth Winstead get to be more fun as Sally's nurse and his wife (who happens to be John's high-school girlfriend) in part because they're more detached from what is happening with Sally's tumor, with Randall Park and Josh Groban having good bits too.

Anna Kendrick winds up being the movie's secret weapon, though; John's calls home play on a lot of crazy hormonal pregnant lady material, and what people say about Rebecca will likely predispose people to think of her as ridiculous or shallow, but Kendrick is able to milk a bunch of laughs from that while still giving the character enough personal substance that any sort of competition between her and Winstead's Gwen can be dismissed out of hand. Between director Krasinski and writer James C. Strouse, they tap into a very precise vein of comedy and drama where these characters are often exaggerated and silly and maybe not too bright, but their concerns are real and matter.

This is Krasinski's second feature as director, and he's learned a bit since Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, setting up a lot more situations where characters can play off each other as opposed to just monologuing and getting them to play out in snappy fashion. He does sometimes have a little trouble giving situations as much weight as he might like, and though he seems far better at comedy, there are some bits that just don't work (Rebecca arriving at the Hollars' house in a taxi should be much funnier than it is, but he doesn't quite establish enough distance to make it absurd). On the other hand, there are some clever visual bits, like the down-the-middle split of Ron's & John's old bedroom that implies a fair amount of their history and is nicely issued in a shot of Ron's daughters' room. Family is a cycle.

This isn't breaking new ground or creating something so real that it had to be done outside the studio system, but it's certainly something that most people can relate to done well. That maybe never packed theaters, but it's the sort of good movie that should get adults into the audience with good word of mouth - a safe bet, but a good one nonetheless.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=29997&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/30/16 15:03:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2016 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2016 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2016 series, click here.

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USA
  26-Aug-2016
  DVD: 06-Dec-2016

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Aug-2016
  DVD: 06-Dec-2016




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