The Hollars (2016)

  • Time: 105 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance
  • Director: John Krasinski
  • Cast: John Krasinski, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick


Aspiring NYC artist John Hollar returns to his middle America hometown on the eve of his mother’s brain surgery. Joined by his girlfriend, eight months pregnant with their first child, John is forced to navigate the crazy world he left behind as his dysfunctional family, high school pals, and over-eager ex flood back into his life ahead of his mother’s operation.

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  • A generic dysfunctional family comedy drama made diverting by its ensemble cast, The Hollars marks actor John Krasinki’s second directorial effort. It’s not bad per se, but it hits its well-worn notes all too predictably with little new to offer.

    Krasinski stars as John Hollar, a struggling graphic novelist grappling with commitment issues and impending fatherhood. As if that’s not enough for him to deal with, he finds himself back in his childhood home when his mother Sally (Margo Martindale) suffers a seizure and is diagnosed with a brain tumour. Apparently his father Don (Richard Jenkins) thought her symptoms were related to her weight. “Even the paralysis?” John wonders.

    Don’s calm exterior masks the roiling panic at the prospect of losing his wife, but it also disguises his depression over his business which is failing and bordering on bankruptcy. Less composed is brother Ron (Sharlto Copley, whose fine change of pace performance in no way overcomes his miscasting), who has been living in his parents’ basement since he left his wife and kids. A deadbeat and ne’er-do-well, he spends most of his time stalking his former family who have now moved on with the chronically nice Reverend Dan (Josh Groban).

    Sally’s illness, naturally, is the catalyst to not only bring the family together but to force all of the men to grow up and get their acts together. For John, in particular, this means dealing with his insecurities via an awkward encounter with his ex-girlfriend Gwen (an underused Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who doesn’t let her husband (Charlie Day) and child get in the way of getting her flirt on with John.

    Underneath the by-the-numbers shenanigans lies something insightful, namely how these men are so afraid of failing the women in their lives that the fear becomes self-sabotaging. Unfortunately, this perceptive nugget is buried under moments that are cringingly cute such as the boys singing an Indigo Girls tune as Sally is taken to surgery. Thankfully, Martindale’s salty, matter-of-fact performance undercuts through the overly fuzzy feels. That Martindale can wring the amount of emotional honesty from Jim Strouse’s ultra-beige script is a testament to her reputation as one of the most reliable and talented character actors around.

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