Review: The Hollars

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

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THE HOLLARS was previously reviewed as part of's Sundance 2016 coverage.

PLOT: A man (John Krasinski) returns home to help his family through a difficult time after his mother (Margo Martindale) is diagnosed with a brain tumor.

REVIEW: It’s very strange how many Sundance titles this year have been about men returning to their hometowns to come to terms with the death or illness of a family member. While this has always been a default Sundance genre, it seems like we’ve had more movies about this subject than usual, with OTHER PEOPLE, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA and JOSHY all having a similar theme.

the hollars John Krasinski anna kendrick

THE HOLLARS is a relatively well-done example of the genre. Krasinski’s second directorial effort, it’s a good-hearted family drama. It lacks the edge of OTHER PEOPLE or MANCHESTER BY THE SEA but it’s also far superior to more mainstream efforts that explore this subject, like THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU.

It helps that Krasinski’s pulled-together one hell of a cast, led by himself. As a struggling graphic novelist worried about the fact that his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) is pregnant, Krasinski plays to his every-man strengths. This is far more along the lines of The Office than his recent alpha-male turn in 13 HOURS, and Krasinski never allows his character to be too whiny in that he recognizes his own luck at having such a supporting girlfriend (Kendrick is luminescent) but can’t reconcile his own feelings of inadequacy.

THE HOLLARS is definitely a showcase for Margo Martindale, who finally gets to play a lead after decades as a character actress. A warm, loving presence, Martindale is fearless in the part, even shaving her head for a later scene where she has to prep for a dangerous operation. The same goes for the always great Richard Jenkins, as Krasinski’s highly emotional dad, who’s always on the cusp of tears. Not only does he have to deal with his wife’s impending death, but his business has also gone belly-up and he’s on the cusp of bankruptcy. Jenkins is never anything less than sympathetic, evoking a man who’s so used to being coddled by his stronger wife that he’s utterly unable to cope with the idea of life on his own.

the hollars John Krasinski anna kendrick

By contrast, Sharlto Copley, as the black-sheep brother, plays things a little more broadly, as he attempts to woo back his ex-wife, who’s taken up with a kindly preacher (Josh Groban – effective in a surprisingly nuanced part). Copley expertly masks his South African accent and makes for an interesting contrast to the more reserved Krasinski.

Given the cast, it’s too bad that Krasinski opts for a mostly comic tone. Too many goofy subplots are tagged-on, with Charlie Day jarring as nurse now married to Krasinski’s former flame (Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a cameo). He plays it very broadly, as does Randall Park as the family doctor, with a silly, unconvincing scene where Copley asks him what kind of marital arts he does based on the fact that he’s Asian. It’s a dumb joke that feels like something lifted out of a movie made twenty years ago.

Even still, THE HOLLARS winds up being very worthwhile on the merits of the acting. While it’s predictable and incredibly familiar, the actors are often magnetic, and Krasinski directs them very well indeed. Sony Classics picked this one up and while it’s probably not destined for major crossover success, it should find an appreciative audience and has the makings of a solid VOD hit.

The Hollars



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.