Director: John Krasinski
Stars: John Krasinski, Margo Martindale
2 (out of 5) Globes
It’s not just that “The Hollars” is an indie so generic its title might as well be a barcode. It’s that it betrays a sensibility that needs to die out. This is a movie about a fractured small town family, whose matriarch, Sally (Margo Martindale), has a large and possibly fatal brain tumor. Will she make amends with her fractured love ones in the event she passes? Or, more importantly, will her son, John (John Krasinski), who’s the actual lead character, get over his minor anxieties concerning his career, not to mention finally marry his pregnant girlfriend, who happens to look like Anna Kendrick?
Movies like “The Hollars” are always centered around white dudes with no real problems, where death and tragedy exist to help them take baby steps to enlightenment. The nadir of this is “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” “The Hollars” isn’t that evil. It is, however, far more shrill. Krasinski also directed, from a script by James C. Strouse, and he has his over-qualified all-star ensemble go to 11. It’s a movie where John’s reprobate brother is played by mega-ham Sharlto Copley, Charlie Day makes funny faces as a wackily strident nurse and even the great, great Richard Jenkins, as John’s dad, is somehow annoying.
If the movie were more chill, if the actors were more relaxed, if the antics didn’t eventually become maudlin, “The Hollars” might have been solid comfort food. Strouse, who also wrote “Lonesome Jim,” has a feel for small town America, and he writes great moms. (Martindale is a predictable delight as a woman who won’t go quietly into the great unknown.) But Krasinski plays up the comedy, turning everyone but John into a gallery of grotesques. It makes sense. He’s made a career playing the quietly sarcastic straight man, scoring yuks with his precise non-reactions to freaks.
All his moves are on display here: that fake-blank stare, that whispered quip, that not-quite-eye-roll. You might think his movie doesn't actually care for any of the other characters — at least until it's time for everyone to get sad. One minute Jenkins is emphatically crying over his wife’s illness, which is apparently a running gag. The next Wilco is playing over earnest montages of people staring into space. That a handful of genuine moments slip in was probably inevitable, given the writer and the cast, although it still features what may be cinema’s all-time most groan-worthy location for a woman’s water to break. Otherwise it plays like a devastating Mel Brooks parody.