Tuesday, September 27, 2016     Volume: 17, Issue: 29

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Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review

‘The Hollars’ sweetly sums up family, growing up




Where is it playing?: Palm Theatre in SLO

What's it rated?: PG-13

What's it worth?: $ Matinee (Ryah)

What's it worth?: $ Streaming (Camillia)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

John Hollar (John Krasinski), a struggling NYC artist is forced to navigate the small middle-American town he left behind when news of his mother’s illness brings him home. Back in the house he grew up in, John is immediately swept up in the problems of his dysfunctional family, high school rival, and an over-eager ex-girlfriend as he faces impending fatherhood with his girlfriend in New York. From a script by Jim Strouse that is at turns hilarious and heartbreaking, John Krasinski’s second feature as a director is a poignant look at the bonds of family and friendship. (88 min.)

Editor’s Note: This week’s edition of Sun Screen was written by New Times Editor Camillia Lanham and Arts Editor Ryah Cooley. 

Ryah There are at least two times when you really “grow up.” The first is the typical turning-18-leaving-for-college-getting-your-first-job phase of life. The second go-round is when you realize your parents aren’t perfect and they won’t live forever. The Hollars encapsulates that struggle well. John Hollar (Krasinski) is already having a tough time personally. He can’t seem to get his art career off the ground, and he and girlfriend, Rebecca (Anna Kendrick), are expecting a baby that John doesn’t seem super ready for. When his mom, Sally (Margo Martindale), is diagnosed with a brain tumor, John is forced to go back to his small hometown and finds everything falling apart. His dad Don’s (Richard Jenkins) business is on the verge of bankruptcy. His unemployed brother, Ron (Sharlto Copely), is living with their parents and kind of stalking his ex-wife and kids. And John knew none of this because he never calls. It’s a messy, real slice of life. In addition to starring in the film, Krasinski also directed The Hollars, which I think lent the tale an extra dose of sweetness. Even when characters make bad choices, it’s hard to view anyone as a bad guy. You even feel some empathy for John’s high school girlfriend and ex-fiancée Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) when unhappy in her own marriage, she throws herself on John, with her husband in the next room. 

Camillia What you call sweet, I call sappy and predictable. If you’ve seen a movie like this once, you’ve seen it 100 times. Think Reese Witherspoon and Sweet Home Alabama, only better writing and better acting. For me, the saving graces of this movie are seasoned dramedians Jenkins and Martindale. Jenkins plays a father with regrets whose life is falling apart, who ignored his wife’s symptoms for years thinking it was something less serious, who’s losing his business and might have to file for bankruptcy, and who seems to cry at the drop of the word “tumor.” Martindale’s character has equal regrets, and she does almost all of her acting laying down in a hospital bed—laughing, crying, and doling out life advice with the covers pulled up to her chest. The pair manages to make cheesy scenes less cheesy, even tear-jerk worthy, and delivers uninspired comedic lines with timing that makes you laugh. Of course, in the end, both come to terms with the “mistakes” they feel that they’ve made and pass out the ol’ wisdom parents are “supposed” to give to their children—tied up in a nice little boring bow. For the most part, I could guess what would happen in a scene just before it happened. There were only two instances in this film where I couldn’t. 

Ryah True, the storyline isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but it’s definitely done five million times better than Sweet Home Alabama, with a few twists here and there. While we get a satisfying amount of depth and backstory from Jenkins’ and Martindale’s characters (and even from Copely), it would been nice to get more from Krasinski’s and Kendrick’s characters. How infrequently was John really calling home? What attempts had he made with his art career? Why did his engagement with Gwen get broken off? What were the troubles alluded to in his current relationship with Rebecca? While the answers to these questions aren’t necessarily the focus of the film, some more context would have been helpful in understanding the characters and the predicament they’re all in a little better. I did enjoy how Rebecca, a proactive, direct women is placed in a positive light for doing what it takes to get John to come back to reality. Way too often I feel like the girlfriend/wife in any given movie is depicted as shrill or too demanding for, you know, wanting her partner to participate in the relationship. We also get some nice performances from Josh Groban as the super nice and ever-calm Reverend Dan, who’s dating Ron’s ex-wife and from Charlie Day as the gruff yet goofy nurse who happens to be married to John’s ex, Gwen. They’re another great example of characters that another film would make you hate, but you can’t help liking Dan because he’s just so darn nice and you feel kind of bad for Jason whose wife doesn’t really seem that into him. Overall, I’d say this is a nice feel-good film to see as a matinee or stream online. 

Camillia I agree, even a flashback to John’s youth would have explained something! Everything seems sort of open to interpretation, except for the parents. We get more about their history and their relationship than we do anyone else’s. The character development of everyone else is just sort of lacking. And yes Rebecca is a proactive and direct woman, and the film does reward her for that. I do like the way in which John talks about what he’s going through to his pregnant girlfriend on the phone—like she’s right there with him in his head, when really she’s hundreds of miles away and can’t understand a thing he says. In fact, it scares her. That’s pretty real. So I will say that the acting from our main characters is decent; it’s just too bad that the story’s so tired. It made the movie less dynamic than it could have been, and everything has too neat of an ending for me, like everyone’s life needed to be resolved in order for the movie to end. Therefore the ending, although cute and a little bit funny, felt forced. I like a movie with some messy loose ends left, because that’s life. 

This week’s Sun Screen was written by New Times Editor Camillia Lanham and Arts Editor Ryah Cooley. Send comments to clanham@newtimesslo.com.