We see families in crisis on the big screen quite often. Not only is it something we all can relate to, but there is a bit of comfort in confronting a family that is (slightly) more screwed up than your own.
What’s tricky about these movies is it is ever so easy for them to be pandering, predictable, and emotionally manipulative; again, a lot like your own family.
“The Hollars” is one of those families-falling-apart-coming-together movies that is conventional as all get-out but earns every tear that it jerks and actually manages to feel honest and authentic thanks mostly to its outstanding cast.
“The Hollars” is directed by and stars John Krasinski, the all-around-good guy who is best known as Jim from the long-running television show “The Office.”
Krasinski plays John Hollar, the prodigal son of the Hollar clan who returns to his Midwestern home from New York when his no-nonsense mother Sally (the great Margo Martindale) is stricken with a brain tumor.
John’s life is at a bit of a crossroads as his career as an artist isn’t panning out as planned and he seems to be withdrawing from his relationship with his wealthy, incredibly pregnant girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick).
But when John gets home he finds his family isn’t doing much better. In addition to his mother’s illness, the family business is on the brink of bankruptcy, his father Don (the incomparable Richard Jenkins) is barely holding it together and his dim-bulb brother Ron (Sharlto Copley) is divorced, unemployed and living in his parents’ basement.
There are several laughs mixed into this family drama, as John has to come to terms with life’s messy imperfections.
Krasinski isn’t much more than competent as a director, but where he deserves a great deal of credit is for brilliantly casting this movie down to the very last part and then turning them loose.
Even the smallest supporting roles, like Charlie Day as an uptight nurse or Josh Groban as Ron’s ex-wife’s new boyfriend, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as John’s ex-girlfriend, are nuanced and memorable.
Kendrick and Copley make the most of their screen time and bring a great deal of depth to what could have easily been one-note caricatures of the cloying girlfriend and idiot brother.
Krasinski is solid as he plays to his strengths, acting as the emotional straight man to all of the craziness going on around him.
But why this movie ultimately succeeds is because it is built on the twin pillars of Martindale and Jenkins. These are two tremendous actors who can find humor and pathos in every single line of the script. After casting those two, it would have been hard to screw this movie up even if you were actively trying.
“The Hollars” is every bit as heartwarming and life-affirming as you would want it to be. If only every dysfunctional family could be so dependable.
“The Hollars” is rated PG-13 for brief language and some thematic material.