By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Hollar family doesn’t do all that much hollering.
But they find a way to put the funk in dysfunctional anyway.
The Hollars is a modest, bittersweet, poignant dramedy in which a man returns to his small hometown somewhere in the Midwest after learning that his mother has fallen ill and is about to undergo surgery.
John Krasinki, best known for his stint on TV’s The Office, plays the protagonist and directs for the second time (2009’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men), working on his first mainstream movie from a grounded-in-reality screenplay by Jim Strouse.
Krasinki’s John Hollar is an office worker stuck in his cubicle who wishes he could be a cartoonist – oops, make that “graphic artist”: sorry. He lives with his pregnant girlfriend, played by Anna Kendrick, whose wealthy family has provided them with a New York City brownstone.
John’s family, on the other hand, has economic struggles that won’t quit.
His mother, played by Margo Martindale, needs surgery to remove a tumor, a serious medical condition that she has not attended to because of the financial drain it represents.
His father, played by Richard Jenkins, has a heating-and-plumbing business that has taken him to the edge of bankruptcy, which has taken him to the edge of a meltdown.
And his older brother, played by Sharlto Copley, the father of two, has divorced and moved back in with his parents while continuing to stalk and battle with his ex-wife.
For the Hollars, money isn’t exactly in abundance and therefore life isn’t exactly easy.
The Hollars is formulaic, all right, but that’s no narrative crime. And it reaches its modest goals because Krasinski’s unassuming portrait of a family struggling to get by in the lower middle class has a disarming sincerity that helps it to resonate.
The director does well by his ensemble cast –which also incudes Charlie Day, Mary Kay Place, Randall Park, and Josh Groban — with central characters who feel amply fleshed out, especially by canny old pros Martindale and Jenkins, and who have a credibility as a nuclear family.
Consequently, we become sufficiently invested in the characters to care about the outcome.
So we’ll visit 2-1/2 stars out of 4 for The Hollars, a pleasantly melancholic small-town family comedy-drama that allows John Krasinski to give his audience a Hollar.