When a dysfunctional family is united after one of them falls ill, can they use this opportunity to resolve their issues with each other?
John Hollar (Krasinski) is undergoing something of a crisis – and things aren’t about to get better anytime soon. To begin with, John’s career isn’t on the trajectory he’d hoped it would be at this point in his life; for another thing, his fiancée Rebecca (Anna Kendrick) is pregnant with their first child, which is merely serving to compound his stress. Add to that the latest news: Sally (Margo Martindale), his mother, is quite ill and in the hospital. Upon hearing this news, John immediately takes a temporary leave from his cartooning job in New York City to return to his family’s small hometown where he can support his mother.
Arriving back home, John finds that he’s stepped into more controversy than he expected with his dysfunctional family members. For one thing, his recently divorced brother Ron (Sharlto Copley) has been living at home with their parents Sally and Don (Richard Jenkins); this has been awkward for a couple of reasons: one, of course, is due to the divorce itself, but the other is because until recently, Ron worked for Don at his failing heating and plumbing business. When money became tight, Don had to lay off Ron; as a result, tensions have heightened between them.
After an examination, it turns out that Sally is seriously ill – she has a brain tumor that has apparently existed for quite some time without having been either detected or treated and now has to undergo a craniotomy in order to have the tumor removed. With Rebecca feeling neglected once she hears that John’s ex-girlfriend has been pursuing him, she flies out there to be with him. Joining John’s family, Rebecca tries to provide support during these turbulent times even though she’s dealing with an impending birth. But will the family be able to resolve their internal conflicts by the time Sally recovers from surgery?
While watching “The Hollars”, one gets the impression that although it may have been made from an original screenplay, it could nevertheless be based on a book titled, “The Big Hollywood Bible Of Movie Clichés”. No one would be blamed for getting the sense that as the writer typed each page, he checked off every item in the book as he went along. We are supposed to like “The Hollars” (both the family and the movie) because “they are so similar to us” and that the story has some verisimilitude with respect to the real life of average folks.
People will always enjoy a good story if it is well-told. In the case of “The Hollars”, it may be a good story, but it’s not well-told, at least not most of the time. Krasinski’s angst over his professional and personal life is rather unsympathetic and one gets the recurring urge to tell his character to just grow up and snap out of it because he doesn’t realize how good his life truly is. As his brother, Sharlto Copley’s character is equally unsympathetic; while we are supposed to feel for him because he misses his children, his erratic behavior has dark undertones that cause suspicions about what more nefarious acts he might commit.
On a positive note, “The Hollars” has a cast worth boasting about; movie and television fans will find an abundance of faces and names that are instantly recognizable. This is an ensemble piece and the actors were likely drawn to it because each character had his or her own tale in which they would be featured. Unfortunately, when characters start behaving in an irrational manner and do things that just don’t make any sense, that’s where viewers are in jeopardy of falling out of the story. In a “dramedy”, it can be a delicate balance to know when to take things seriously and when not.