Saturday 4 September 2021

Movie Review: The Hollars (2016)

A comedy-drama about a family brought together by a serious illness, The Hollars offers an agreeable mix of laughs and tears.

New York-based graphic novelist John Hollar (John Krasinski) is suffering from writer's block, and his moodiness is straining his relationship with pregnant girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick). Upon learning his mother Sally (Margo Martindale) has a brain tumour and needs surgery, John travels to his home town to support his father Don (Richard Jenkins) and brother Ron (Sharlto Copley). 

Sally's illness has turned Don into an emotional wreck, while his plumbing business is near bankruptcy. Ron is jobless and stalking his ex-wife Stacey (Ashley Dyke). Sally's flippant nurse Jason (Charlie Day) is married to John's high school sweetheart Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Despite being in bed at the hospital, Sally is doing her best to hold the family together. As the surgery date approaches, John is drawn back into his family's affairs, and Rebecca shows up to provide support.

An amiable romp through typical family dysfunctions, The Hollars benefits from a mean streak of humour, colourful characters, and a willing cast. While originality and sterling moments may be in short supply, Krasinksi directs Jim Strouse's script with an eye to small-town charm and cinematic efficiency, packaging up the film in 89 minutes.

Many laughs come from Ron's jumbled life, now reduced to living in his parents' basement after suffering the ignominy of being fired by his dad. Ron is also nowhere near over the break-up of his marriage and is desperate - too desperate - to participate in the lives of his young daughters. Comedy nuggets are found within Ron's tangles with his ex-wife's new boyfriend Reverend Dan (Josh Groban).

Meanwhile, at the hospital nurse Jason is on a singular mission to redefine health care standards with his own brand of judgemental cynicism. His insecurities are also justifiably close to the surface but he anyway invites John to dinner and a reunion with Gwen. Strouse and Krasinksi display a deft touch by unleashing an undercurrent of lust and animal attraction, then cleverly redirecting it.

As for the tears, Sally's tumour and Don's emotional brittleness provide opportunities for sombre moments and reflections about loss, hardship and kindness. John adds his insecurities to the mix, working through the highs and lows while learning plenty about Rebecca's mettle. In this comfortingly familiar family, everything is far from perfect, and that's just fine.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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