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The Hollars

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Aug 26, 2016
John Krasinski and Margo Martindale star in 'The Hollars'
John Krasinski and Margo Martindale star in 'The Hollars'  

Sometimes actors transition brilliantly to roles behind the camera. Sometimes they don't. John Krasinski has made likable movies and TV shows as an actor, but his new directorial effort, "The Hollars," about a goofball family facing a medical crisis, is DOA.

This is Krasinski's second time directing a theatrical release (his first was 2009's "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men"), and he has several episodes of his breakout TV series "The Office" to his directorial credit, so he's not exactly a novice. Still, this film feels amateurish: The beats are so predictable they land like thuds; you can practically count down to each new "surprise." Worse, the characters are far from lovably eccentric. They grate more than a food processor.

The story is as rote as it sounds: An expectant father and wannabe graphic novelist named John Hollar (Krasinski) leaves the big city, and his pregnant girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick), for his nowheresville home town when his mother is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. John's home town -- not given a name, but lying somewhere within the radius of a eight-hour car drive from New York -- is, needless to say, a slice of day-old Americana, a burg replete with his clueless bother Ron (Sharlto Copley), his high school sweetheart Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), her husband Jason (Charlie Day), and his parents, Don (Richard Jenkins), and Sally (Margo Martindale).

Ma and Pa run a plumbing business that's circling the drain. Ron used to work for the family concern until his dad was forced to cut his job, so now he lives in their basement; his ex-wife Stacey (Ashley Dyke), meantime, lives across town with their two daughters, and it's only a matter of time before her new man, Pastor Jim (Josh Groan) joins them.

From the set-up to the characterizations to the dialogue, the most consistent note the movie strikes is one of, "How did so many talented actors end up in this?!" The film scrapes and shuffles along, managing to avoid to major potholes (what could have turned into a very uncomfortable subplot about Gwen and John is nipped in the bud after only one unfunny scene) but tumbling headlong into others. Krasinski saves the most complete story arc for himself, out of a handful of half-sketched ones: John, at least, has the capacity to learn from his mistakes, admit when he's been wrong and why, and move forward. A sweet relationship story about his coming to terms with the fact that he's far less successful, as a breadwinner and as an artist, threads the film's overbuilt plotting.

But it's not enough -- and neither is the endless soundtrack. This is a movie built around a clutch of songs, most of them decent but hardly any of them classics. (The closest we get to that is, arguably, is the Indigo Girls tune "Closer to Fine," and it's also a song that fits the film's central storyline.)

This would be a good date movie for audience members too wrapped up in their dates to pay attention to what's on the screen. For anyone else... well, maybe once it's on cable. Or, more likely, not.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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