The Hollars (2016)
dir. John Krasinski
written by: Jim Strouse
starring: John Krasinski, Margo Martidale, Sharlto Copley, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Charlie Day
2.25 out of 4 stars
When a film devolves into a one-issue Oscar campaign for an industry professional, it’s hard to take the work seriously. Albert Nobbs was the “Glenn Close needs an Oscar” show (which she does), and Janet McTeer got in there too, thanks to a much better performance. Bryan Cranston snuck in last year with his cheese ball goodwill. This year with John Krasinski’s The Hollars, acclaimed character actress Margo Martindale takes all those years of rave reviews and Emmy-wins to strive for her little gold man.
The Hollars is the story of the Hollar family coming together when matriarch Sally (Margo Martindale) is found to have a long ignored brain tumor that requires surgery. Returning to the hometown he has moved past, John (John Krasinski) reassociates with past flames (an underused Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and her obnoxious husband (Charlie Day, miscast in a meathead role) and battles with the future of his family losing its glue. While preparing for Sally’s surgery, the family attempts to make ends meet and prepare for the worst.
Reminiscent of the much better Other People, this fractured family lacks the attraction developed by the aforementioned cancer movie’s strength. John Krasinski would be better served not directing himself. Coming off like Chris Evans in Before We Go, the good guy narrative does not sit well when his minor flaws are delivered with too much jubilant charm, particularly when he’s surrounded by familial trainwreck. His overly emotional father, played by a fake-crying Richard Jenkins, can’t get anything right with his hysterics. His screwy brother Ron (Sharlto Copley) would be best served swapping roles with Charlie Day. Even a usual favorite Anna Kendrick, playing John’s pregnant girlfriend Rebecca, is misdirected. The character is slated as pushy, but she proceeds as weepy through much of the movie. A key line from Margo, “Men need pushed,” is lost due to its inaccuracy.
Martindale is certainly the highlight of the movie. The movie appears to have been written with her in mind. Her every scene is filled with choice words of wisdom for her family. Her journey through her late diagnosis owns layers without the film around her assisting in any way. Her pre-surgery breakdown provides her spark for awards attention, especially paired with an adorable musical send off from her family. No matter how charming she is as a performer and no matter how much better her role is compared to the rest of the movie, she is dragged down.
This is a case of right actor-wrong role with which to chase awards attention. She’s good, and she’s always good, but surrounded by this mostly laughless, kind of sappy movie, we wish it were for August: Osage County or Million Dollar Baby or especially Paris, Je’taime. I guess we get to take the awards seasons we are given. People win and are nominated for the wrong roles all the time, so if it does happen, I’ll celebrate the grand career of Margo Martindale and neglect to remember her win came from this movie.