A stacked ensemble cast is wasted on a story that doesn’t offer anything new
John Krasinski’s new film, The Hollars, knows exactly what type of movie it wants to be. From the emotionally stunted artist protagonist and his eccentric extended family, down to the acoustic guitar score (provided by composer Josh Ritter), the film doesn’t seem to have missed a box on the early 2000 indie dramedy bingo sheet. Unfortunately, what’s missing is any form of original insight to bind these tropes together.
The plot centers on John Hollar (Krasinski), an aspiring cartoonist working as an office drone in New York, who is called back to his middle-American hometown when his mother (Margo Martindale) is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Once he returns for his mother’s surgery, he finds his father (Richard Jenkins) an emotional wreck over the failing family business and his dimwitted brother Ron (Sharlto Copley) struggling with his divorce from his wife and separation from his kids. John meanwhile is about to become a father and is unsure if he’s prepared to start a family with his wealthy girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick). If you think that sounds like a lot for an 88 minute film, that’s not even including subplots like John’s discovery his mother’s nurse (Charlie Day) is a petty high school classmate married to his ex-girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) or Ron’s interactions with a reverend (Josh Groban) who’s begun seeing his ex-wife.
While Jim Strouse’s script nominally gives each of these talented performers interesting material, very little beyond John’s arc is ever given much room to be fleshed out. The character of Ron in particular suffers as the script appears indecisive whether or not he should treat his struggles as comic relief or something more emotionally grounded. In terms of performances, Krasinski brings moments of likability to his character, but never seems to display the character’s deeper emotional conflicts as clearly as he should. Martindale meanwhile does lovely, nuanced work as a mother doing her best to keep away the darkness of her diagnosis for the sake of her family. Kendrick also does nice work, adding depth to what on paper is a fairly thankless role of John’s consoler.
Serving as director for his second feature film, Krasinski keeps the film moving but never seems to offer much in terms of a visual personality to a movie that should feel personal. This in a sense begs the question, why did this film need to be made now? Nothing new has been offered to this formula since a film like Garden State used it over a decade ago and even that film now seems to have morphed from indie darling to hipster punching bag. Ultimately, while the film is far from an embarrassment, with so much talent involved, one can’t help but wish The Hollars had something fresh to say.
The film hits theaters this Friday.