The Hollars (2016)

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“Can we cut the s*** here, for a second?”

People do not experience emotions the way they are portrayed and supposedly felt in The Hollars, one of the year’s biggest disappointments and most hackneyed films. These laughs are not earned. These tears don’t register on any human scale. The film is stuck in an invariable range of late night texting emoticons: disgruntled, quirky, sentimental. It sends one and then another in an unchained pattern with no consistency and no humorous or dramatic edge. I absolutely hated this movieand hope young dreamers and doers out there learn a valuable lesson from watching it. This is precisely how you should never make an independent dramedy. Films like The Hollars belong in hibernation.

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Toss out the practically interchangeable plotlines and you get a centrifuge of a film functioning on auto-pilot, all there to service John Hollar (John Krasinki). He’s everything you expect out a clichéd script and then some. In his 30’s, working for a New York publishing firm, still hung up on his ex Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead in one scene) while his current girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick) is pregnant and due any time now. Then John becomes the prodigal son returning home for typical reasons. Mom (Margo Martindale) is sick. It’s revealed Dad’s (Richard Jenkins) business is on the cusp of bankruptcy. Older brother Ron (Sharlto Copley) needs help stalking his ex-wife and fighting her boyfriend (Josh Groban). John argues with Gwen’s husband (Charlie Day) who is also his mother’s nurse. Just imagine The Brady Buncher Jan switching out Marcia for our lead’s name. “John, John, John!” That’s the basic summary of the entire film.

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I say that above because The Hollars is such a vanity project. All signs and outposts point to John, a man-child who wanted to author graphic novels because in bad scripts like this one, the writer James C. Strouse infuses too much of himself into his lead character. We don’t need any more white, frustrated, exasperated men in movies. Yet here we are. Krasinki directs true thespian Richard Jenkins to one of his worst performances. Copley is not much better. And even Krasinski himself falls flat, playing an out of tune piano meant to mimic the endearing charm of Jim from The Office without ever striking a chord. Instead he looks smug, stupid, displaced. I wish I had tallied how many times he said “what” or “no” or “oh my God.” He needs to be told that you can’t grin your way into the hearts of the audience.

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Krasinski should have no future business being behind the camera after this one, especially considering the talent he assembled and wasted. The entire film relies on the music of folk singer Josh Ritter, whose art is done an injustice. Anna Kendrick finally gets a grown up role, but she’s not even third fiddle to John. Margo Martindale delivers a truly superb and Oscar worthy supporting actress performance, but she’ll be looked over because the film itself views her in hindsight. It makes sense that so much of The Hollars feels like it’s in stagnation, or maybe even in retrograde motion, because that’s exactly where these people – or at least the male buffoons – reside. If SNL were to make a digital short mocking the eccentric and cutesy films of the Sundance Film Festival, it’d look exactly like The Hollars. And in case you couldn’t tell, that’s not meant to be complimentary.

“I’m embarrassed.”

Rating: 1 out of 5

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