Wednesday, September 14, 2016

John Krasinski's sophomore directing effort -- THE HOLLARS -- opens in South Florida

The latest in the popular sub-genre of "Aren't-we-just-the-craziest-but-most-adorable-folk-ever?" has now arrived, and my answer to that question is a resounding No! After making a surprising, risky and generally well-done screenplay/ directorial debut with his adaptation of the David Foster Wallace story collection, Brief Interviews Wih Hideous Men, actor John Krasinski (shown below) has gone a good deal more mainstream with THE HOLLARS, his second effort as director.

Much of the credit for this very well-acted but too-often cringe-inducing piece of feel-good schlock must go to its screenwriter, Jim Strouse, who has an up-and-down track record so far as I'm concerned -- from the so-so Grace Is Gone to the much better People Places Things (both of which Strouse also directed) -- and here hands us a cast of characters so fucking quirky you'll want to sedate them forthwith.

Let's start with the Hollar son, Ron (played by South African actor Sharlto Copley, above, center), whose behavior goes from simply goofy to certifiable within minutes. Copley handles all this quite well. He's believable, but his character is simply not. Ditto the dad, Don, played by the ever-reliable Richard Jenkins (above, left), who offer up a will/won't, can/can't. happy/sad guy so utterly incompetent, you won't imagine he could ever have run his own business (well, it is going bankrupt. But still: How did he ever keep it afloat?).

The same can be said for the behavior of the hospital nurse, Jason (Charlie Day, above), who takes care of the Hollars ailing mom (the great Margo Martindale, below). Jason is so often so over-the-top, you'll roll your eyes and then some. So many characters here are so charmingly quirky that the movie begins to curdle early on. Ms Martindale -- by virtue of her skilled acting chops and refusal to overplay the quirks -- manages to keep the movie grounded whenever she's on screen. But that's not often enough.

Krasinski himself plays the more "normal" brother, John, who returns to the fold to aid his sick mom but turns out to have a usual rom-com problem of his own -- commitment phobia to his pregnant girlfriend (played with her usual sassy charm by Anna Kendrick, below, center, flanked by Krasinksi, left and Copley).

Also standing by, amongst a fine supporting cast, are Josh Groban (below, right), as the local minister, and that wonderful and recently BrainDead actress, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (at bottom), as Mr. Day's philandering spouse. As I say, the acting is first-rate all-around but is consistently done in by the too-muchness of the ridiculous story.

In its race toward the feel-good at all costs, the movie -- which purportedly deals with our difficult economic times and involves job loss and bankruptcy -- actually offers up one character from a rich-as-Croesus family who can and does solve financial problems with a wave of her economic wand. Think of it as the final insult.

A shoo-in for audiences who demand jerked tears, coy laughs and the warm-and-fuzzy above any real intelligence, this manufactured and manipulative movie is star-studded, beautifully-acted crap.

From Sony Pictures Classics and running a thankfully short 88 minutes, The Hollars, after debuting in the "big" cities a few weeks back, opens here in South Florida this Friday, September 16, at eleven different theaters --from Boca Raton to Delray Beach, Davie, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Fort Lauderdale and the greater Miami area. Click here, then scroll down, to view all the currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

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