“The Hollars” is one of those movies blessed with an interesting story that it simply doesn’t recognize.
The compelling narrative has to do with the crises experienced by a small-town married couple of 38 years, when wife Sally (Margo Martindale) is stricken with a brain tumor just as husband Don’s (Richard Jenkins) heating business faces bankruptcy.
Martindale and Jenkins are two of our finest character actors, bestowed with the great gift of being able to convey deep feelings in subtle fashion.
But John Krasinski, directing and starring, and screenwriter James C. Strouse pile on an excess of characters and distractions. They shift the primary focus from Sally and Don to sons John (Krasinski), back in the Midwest from New York while mom’s in the hospital, and Ron (Sharlto Copley), a hopeless screw-up recently fired by dad from the business.
As such, the small and personal story of a husband and wife facing mortality becomes a fairly typical dysfunctional homecoming piece.
Krasinski brings an appealingly light touch to his direction, downplaying the maudlin potential in favor of a more convincing middle ground, and he deserves points for genuinely affecting moments like an impromptu, a capella Indigo Girls rendition ahead of Sally’s surgery.
The movie so eagerly touches on all the quadrants we’ve become accustomed to expect from Sundance-lite pictures like “The Hollars” that it starts to seem ridiculous: life and death, happiness and sadness, marriages and funerals and childbirth. It’s too much.
Review: 2 out of 4 stars
Directed by John Krasinski, starring Krasinski, Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Sharlto Copley
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that "The Hollars" was John Krasinski's directorial debut; in fact, the first film he directed was 2009's "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men."