Screened Out – The Hollars

By : Stephen Miller
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John Krasinski, Margo Martindale, Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins, Sharltoe Copeley, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Charlie Day, Josh Groban

So, with The Hollars, John Krasinski has directed his first film…

Essentially, it’s a little indie flick about a quirky family hitting the skids. So, we can remember Little Miss Sunshine, Garden State, Wish I Were Here, and a whole host of other films…all of which did this slightly better.

Firstly, the plot isn’t anything spectacular. Dad Jenkins is losing his business; he’s fired his first son Copeley, so the son has moved back home. Momma Martindale has a nasty brain tumor. And then second son Krasinski is in NYC. He is a failed graphic novelist in a wobbly relationship to the very pregnant Kendrick.

Anna Kendrick and other good actors cannot do much with The Hollars' less-than-believable characters.

Anna Kendrick and other good actors cannot do much with The Hollars‘ less-than-believable characters.

Sometimes The Hollars is beautiful. Other times it just doesn’t feel very honest.

Consequently, The Hollars boasts a very impressive cast list. I’m guessing Krasinski called up almost every contact he’s had in Hollywood and asked them if they were available. (And apparently he has a lot of talented acting friends!) Then Krasinski had his buddy, indie screenwriter Jim Strouse (People Places Things, Grace is Gone), give the actors who opted in unusual characters and clever dialogue.

However, this Hollar clan is a little too idiosyncratic, as if they have no clue they are all oddballs. The Hollars are weirder than William Hurt’s Accidental Tourist family…except that Hurt’s family knew they were deeply peculiar.

Half the time, even the dialogue sounds a little stilted.

So, it’s kind of wonderful when an actress like Martindale can shine, in all of her scenes. Because she is so good, she gives her hard-as-nails “get-‘er-done” Mom such naturalness and bravado. She lights up the screen; she’s a relatively unknown performer who really needs more props. (Coincidentally, she did the same in her part in August: Osage County.)

copeley groban

Some scenes – like all of them with Josh Groban – are slightly embarrassing.

Due to their pedigree, actors like Kendrick, Jenkins, and Copeley should have added that same sparkle. They only get through intermittently. Blame the many overly cutesy moments robbing the story of earnestness. Guess what? Josh Groban is a really nice priest married to Copeley’s ex-wife. Now watch Copeley embarrass himself!

In addition, Krasinski makes a few more missteps, delivering old indie tropes left and right. He picks a soundtrack of lesser known indie bands and old standards. Late in the movie, there are a couple unnatural speeches. Improbable things happen. As a result of being new to directing, Krasinski’s work is straight out of Directing Indie Films for Dummies book.

This is because maybe the whole film was shot on weekends, around other projects.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

In movies, plays, books, and television, there is something called “suspension of disbelief.” It’s where a story entices audiences to believe, to give up their knowledge that it’s fiction, even for a few moments. The tale sweeps an audience in; it makes them feel.

However, that only happens every third scene for me in The Hollars. Some of those scenes have Krasinski in them. All of them – stilted or otherwise – have Martindale.

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