By Alison Perelman, Assistant Culture Editor
I don’t know anyone who isn’t a fan of Jim Halpert on “The Office.” Just the same, I don’t know anyone who isn’t a fan of the actor who portrays him, the adorably sarcastic John Krasinski. And now, Krasinski has created another lovable character — a whole family, in fact — in the new film he directs and stars in, “The Hollars.”
The Hollar family is slowly falling apart. Sally (Margo Martindale) is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Don (Richard Jenkins) is in denial that his business is bankrupt, and he is grappling with his wife’s diagnosis. Their eldest son, Ron (Sharlto Copley), is living back at home despite being fired by his own father, and he struggles with not being a part of his ex-wife and kids’ lives.
John (Krasinski) is forced to return home for his mother and act as glue for the family. But he is faced with old flames and is still trying to fathom impending fatherhood and succeed in his career.
The setting and cinematography accurately depict life in middle (of nowhere) America. As John makes his way back home we linger at a gas station off the highway with nothing else in sight before catching glimpses of fields and house after house that don’t match. The small town holds a token liquor store and a quaint fifties diner with residents who drive pick-up trucks and out-of-date Grand Marquis.
To escape from the dysfunction of his family, John drives through a corn field to reach a picturesque lake with his childhood tire swing. As he takes in the view, reminiscing, there’s the nostalgia of going home.
Krasinski’s own performance is an excellent balance of charmingly awkward humor and serious concern, and he couldn’t have picked a better cast for this dramedy.
Martindale is the embodiment of her character’s nickname, “Chief.” She is a strong, grounding presence with the biggest laugh that perfectly portrays Sally’s lack of worry about her diagnosis until the end.
Jenkins is the ideal loving and loyal, but somewhat unstable, husband, making us break out in giggles every time he breaks into tears.
Copley is the right amount of sometimes funny, slightly immature crazy — thinking the worst of his mother’s condition and spying with binoculars outside his ex-wife’s house. Anna Kendrick, as John’s pregnant girlfriend, is a good mirror of Sally’s head-on-her-shoulder attitude. And Josh Groban tops it off as Ron’s ex-wife’s new boyfriend — always playing the character we hate for no real reason.
Writer Jim Strouse constructs a seamless indie dramedy, timing the jokes just right and offsetting them with punches of reality. The dialogue and details — like pretzels and ice cream, a Hollar family favorite — create a beautiful family dynamic that almost anyone can either relate to or yearn for.
The film is rather predictable and wraps up too nicely at the end with the knowledge that the family is going to be okay, though we don’t know how. While this format can get boring, I wouldn’t expect anything less from an indie film. They’re meant to take you back — to your childhood home, awkward teenage years or first love — and be feel-good. It’s why I love them.
While “The Hollars” may be too neatly tied up with a bow, everyone needs a big laugh and good cry and to walk out of the theater with a satisfactory smile. And the star-studded cast makes it worth the watch.