hollars

Dysfunctional family dramedies have now become a staple in the indie world. They usually involve a proverbial Prodigal Son or Daughter returning to their hometown to either learn a lesson or make amends while leaving a poignant impact on the rest of his relatives and loved ones.

It’s usually one of the themes in any treacle-laden holiday film (The Family Stone, Love The Coopers), but by now, we’ve seen plenty of these stories in more intimate and modestly budgeted productions (Garden State, Young Adult). 2014’s This Is Where I Leave You¬†and the adaptation of August: Osage County even attempted to turn the concept into all-star affairs, flooding the screen with stars to play out the domestic strife.

That must be why John Krasinski’s The Hollars feels so blandly familiar. While it does have a cloying charm and features an ensemble of capable actors, nothing about the story and its execution feels particularly fresh or new.

Krasinski plays John Hollar, a struggling New York City artist with a pregnant girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) who’s summoned back home when his mother (the always wonderful Margo Martindale) is hospitalized. There, he has to deal with his emotional father (Richard Jenkins), who’s struggling with the family business, and his older, burnout brother Ron (Sharlto Copley), who’s having a hard time seeing his daughters warm up to his ex-wife’s new husband (played by Josh Groban…yes, that Josh Groban). And then there’s John’s old flame Gwen (because there’s always an old flame who’s never left town), who still harbors feelings for him. She’s played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead in an all-too-brief role. And always reliable for some comic relief is Charlie Day, playing Gwen’s doofy husband who conveniently happens to be John’s mom’s nurse at the hospital.

Serviceably directed by Krasinski himself and written by Jim Strouse, The Hollars is a decent enough production, hitting all the right marks and nicely balancing humor and heartache (a bedside joke about Jenny Craig is both heartwrenching and hilarious), but it’s a paint-by-numbers portrayal of a family in crisis.

The film,¬†Krasinski said in a statement, “can be at once universal in its themes and uniquely personal in its heart and sense of humor.” That’s fine and all, but for anyone who’s sat through any of the aforementioned films, that sentiment could be applied to any of those titles. That’s why it’s a little disappointing to see such a promising group of players be forced to run through such a been-there-done-that set of theatrics.

RATING: 2/5

@TheFirstEcho