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The Hollars (2016)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/6/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/13/2016
Here's another one of those great contradictions in life -- most of us would like to think that we are normal (and we all know that person who is way too "normal"). However, I think that a lot of people would describe their family's as weird. So, there are a number of normal people who have somehow managed to escape from weird families. And if you don't believe this, the movies will certainly attempt to reinforce it for you. Films love to bring us relatives who are a crazy bunch and are simply chock full of idiosyncrasies, with the next member being zanier than the last. The Hollars certainly falls into this category, filling in all of the crazy family blanks.
John Hollar (John Krasinski) has carved out a life for himself in the city. While he’s not crazy about his job, he and his girlfriend, Becca (Anna Kendrick), are expecting a baby. This is thrown into an uproar which John must return to his small hometown when his mother, Sally (Margo Martindale), has a seizure and collapses. John is reunited with his father, Don (Richard Jenkins), a failed businessman who is emotionally unstable, and his brother, Ron (Sharlto Copley), a ne’er-do-well who has moved back in with his parents. When it’s made clear that Sally’s condition may be severe, John realizes that he will have to stay in town for a few days, and his past quickly begins to creep up on him, which reminds him why he left town in the first place.
If I were to identify the "draw" of The Hollars, it would be that the film was directed by John Krasinski. Having directed some episodes of The Office and the 2009 indie project Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, this is his first attempt at a true narrative feature. Since The Office ended in 2013, Krasinski has appeared in a few things here and there, but one can assume that he's been leaning more towards directing, and in the special features included here, Krasinski reveals that he's been working on this project for several years. (One has to wonder how he has time for anything when he's always pranking Jimmy Kimmel.) With all of that focus, couldn't he have picked a better movie?
The Hollars is so mediocre that it's almost shocking. It's almost as if screenwriter Jim Strouse had a checklist of cliches and he went though them one-by-one. Character is forced to return to their hometown due to family tragedy. Check. This character thought that they'd left that life behind and are very reluctant to be pulled back into it. Check. They sleep in their old room which looks exactly like it did when they last saw it. Check. The family is a mess and one member is a loser. Check. The main character is torn between their new life and old life. Check. From beginning to end, there is very little originality here, and this simply stymies the film. The only place where The Hollars strays from the norm is with Don, whose odd behavior hints at early onset Alzheimer's or something of the like. There is a twist in the third act which is somewhat shocking, but even this feels like something which we've seen before.
An ensemble piece like The Hollars often hinges less on the story and relies on the characters, so they really need to sell it here. And even they are a letdown. Krasinski proved on The Office that he's a great straight man and he attempts to do the same thing here. But, he simply doesn't bring enough to the character and John is too much of a blank slate. Don and Ron are certainly interesting characters, as they each have their eccentricities, but Don is too underwritten and Ron is too broad. Sally is the kind of strong and funny mom that we would all like to have, but she doesn't break the mold. I had Charlie Day to steal the show in a supporting role, but even he feels held back. Given those involved, I really wanted to like The Hollars, but the movie offers so little over which to get enthused. The story is hackneyed and the characters don't pop, resulting in a film which feels very similar to the recent This is Where I Leave You.
The Hollars should have picked different names for the main couple on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The depth is acceptable and the image is rarely soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We get some noticeable surround and stereo effects here, mostly from street scenes or from the hospital, but this is not an especially active track. It mostly focuses on the dialogue, which always come through clearly.
The Hollars Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director/Actor John Krasinski and Margo Martindale. "The Family Trust: Inside The Hollars" (18 minutes) contains comments from the cast and some of the creative team. The actors talk about what brought them to the project, while Krasinski discusses his approach to the material. From there, there is a lot of talk about the characters and how the actors worked together, as well as the production. "Persistent Vision: Margo Martindale" (6 minutes) has those involved in the film singing her praises, while Martindale talks about her journey into acting. Krasinski hosts the "LA Film Festival Q&A" (19 minutes) which also includes Kendrick and Martindale. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long