What It’s About: With an extremely likable cast and a heartfelt family slice-of-life story, “The Hollars” is easy to relate to — eliciting laughs and tears in equal measure.
In lesser hands, a comedy-drama about a dysfunctional family dealing with the mom’s serious illness would be predictable, but actor-director John Krasinski (“The Office”) strikes the right notes, and the humanity shines through in Jim Strouse’s poignant screenplay.
Krasinski plays John, a graphic artist, who lives in New York City, and is facing fatherhood, as his girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick) is pregnant. As he grapples with personal and job anxiety, he finds out his mom has a brain tumor and he must return to his small Ohio hometown.
That’s where Mom Sally (Margo Martindale) and Dad Ron (Richard Jenkins) live, and where his divorced brother Ron (Sharlto Copley) is living in the basement.
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Drama has nested on their doorstep, and there are a heap of issues they are dealing with — but the story is told with such humor and warmth that you can't help but smile and relate.
This might resemble your own wacky family. And the movie feels like home.
Performances: Margo Martindale, a multiple Emmy winner, makes a film better by her sheer presence. As Sally, she is the kind-hearted, wise woman who has taken care of the men in her life very well. She has her moments of sheer fear, and it's real and riveting.
Veteran character actor Richard Jenkins, another ace in the hole, is her loving husband Ron who falls apart easily.
Son Ron is a mess. And Sharlto Copley (“District 9”), in a rare demonstration of comedic skills, is hilarious as the unhappily divorced dad who spies on his ex-wife. Her new man, the youth pastor (Josh Groban), gets under Ron’s skin.
John is struggling to keep it together, too. Krasinski is such an appealing actor that you are with him every step of the way.
He runs into a high school rival (Charlie Day), now married to his old girlfriend Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Day (“Horrible Bosses”) is a marvel of comic rage and attitude, and wackiness ensues whenever he shows up.
What Works: Confronting a matriarch’s mortality is a tricky subject, but this is an honest and heartwarming snapshot of a family situation.
What Doesn’t Work: John's girlfriend Rebecca designs pet clothes. Oh that was ripe for more development, and not just one throwaway scene.
This is the kind of film that tugs at you in a realistic way. You’ll call a parent or a sibling or a child soon after viewing.
Director: John Krasinski
Starring: John Krasinski, Anna Kendrick, Sharlto Copley, Richard Jenkins, Margo Martindale and Charlie Day.
Rated: PG-13 for brief language and some thematic material