Friday, September 23
REVIEW: The Hollars
Directed by John Krasinski
1 hour 28 minutes
From Sony Pictures Classics
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
I'm not certain if this is our first dysfunctional family movie of the year or not but it seems like we get at least one every year, doesn't it? It is nowhere near the worst of the genre nor does it rival those at the top but if this is your kind of movie madness, I expect you will like it.
I do like dysfunctional family (is there anyone who doesn't find that redundant?) stories because they oddly provide a little comfort in knowing your family isn't necessarily the poster family for the cause. They also provide great opportunities to see large casts interacting together, which I have always loved.
If it's not holidays or other special occasions given as the reasons for gatherings, then it's death or an illness. In this case a wife and mother has been diagnosed with a large brain tumor and must undergo surgery. Her family consists of a loving husband, a son down-on-his-luck sleeping in his parents' basement and a son living away from home, trying to make it as an artist and in a relationship with his pregnant girlfriend. In actuality, a smaller family than we usually see in these types of dramas but the truth is we have a much better opportunity to write stronger characters.
The mother, of course, is the anchor of the Hollar family and the idea of losing her unravels her husband and two sons. The father is on the verge of filing bankruptcy and he has fired his oldest son because of dwindling receipts only to gain him as a household resident. The son is well-intentioned but a loose cannon who misses his divorced wife and two daughters. Trouble seems to be his middle name. The son who returns is also not steady on his feet being perpetually perplexed about still finding his way in the business world while fathering a child with a moneyed girlfriend.
The mother has the most serious problem but without it, she would have been the character who was the happiest, funniest and most engaging. She does have the film's wittiest line when her son, noticing she's depressed about having her head shaved for the operation, says, What's wrong, Mom? And the full-figured lady replies I am just so afraid people will say I look like Rod Steiger. (For those of you who don't know Steiger, may peace be with you.)
This is probably my favorite dysfunctional family of the whole lot. They have some hangups but this is a loving, well-meaning family and the spirit of them is felt throughout the story.
One reason, certainly, for that good feeling is the truth I felt from the acting of the family members. I am so fond of the handsome, earnest Krasinski... my only complaint is that I never seem to see him in very much. In no way was his acting here anything less than what it needed to be, but his character didn't explode on the screen the way the others did. It should be noted that this is his first feature directing job and as a producer as well, he must have had his hands full.
He steered a remarkable trio as the rest of his family. I have never seen Copley in anything, although I do recognize his name. His character is not so likeable when we first meet him but there is something wonderful about watching a good actor play strung out. I hope the Oscar folks see this film and remember Margo Martindale and Richard Jenkins. (Most of her scenes are in a hospital bed.) They are two highly respected members of the acting community with name-recognition not on the same plane. This film and Oscar nominations for their glorious performances could change all that. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
I didn't care for the character played by Charlie Day. He is the mother's room nurse and also the new husband of Krasinki's ex-girlfriend. This obnoxious character was not at all in tone with the rest of the story and as a secondary character, no less, I found his appearances intrusive. There were several secondary scenes that didn't seem to work either.
I loved the last 10 minutes, also the songs and the shout out to Detroit's glamorous Fox Theater. I think I always offer full disclosure when a film gets me a little weepy. This is one of those films.
Our Miss Arden