Buffa: Well acted and unexpectedly funny 'The Hollars' charms

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you The Hollars, a sweet little film with a big heart that was manufactured from an original script and with a director/star in the cozily charming John Krasinski. Groundbreaking news I am sure.

Here is a movie that doesn't rewrite the book or try to fill your head with complexity. All it will do is ease your mind with compelling drama and make you laugh unexpectedly. 

You heard that right. This family drama has true moments of hilarity that aren't related to prankster jokes or goofball moments. Just regular human life getting in the way of things. 

Krasinski stars as John Hollar, a misguided graphic comic artist wasting away at a desk job with a pregnant wife(Anna Kendrick lighting up an underwritten role). His brother, Ron(Sharlto Copley, shining in an unusual light piece of work), is the underachieving brother with two kids and an ex-wife he can't quit spying on. Their dad, Don(Richard Jenkins), has a decaying business that is costing his family. 

Then there is the lovely Margo Martindale as Sally, the matriarch of the family and the kickstarting fuse of the plot. When she has medical issues, the distant John returns to his hometown and reconnects with the family he has left behind for many years. 

It's familiar territory folks. John, Ron, and Don. Sally. You've seen it before and screenwriter James Strouse knows it. What he does is inject unexpectedly hilarity into otherwise mundane and ordinary plot devices. It helps to have a game and talented cast ready to handle your serve. 

Martindale is simply extraordinary, and produces a role that could have walked up to melodramatic comfort and slept in the bed all night with ease but instead stays tough and unusual. The seasoned actress doesn't miss one opportunity to put her own spin on the mom that knows best. It takes a talented performer to do that.

Jenkins matches her serve for serve as the vulnerable yet stout patriarch who likes to cry. The actor hasn't produced a bad piece of work since The Visitor years ago. With Jenkins, what you see is what you get. There's no additional theatrics required. 

Krasinski is fine in a pretty straight forward role but Copley is the real surprise here. Movie fans know him from wild science fiction fare like District 9, Chappie, and dark action films like Oldboy. Here, he's an unbalanced yet soulful man who struggles to do the easy things yet endears himself to others through sensitive admission. You've never seen the actor like this and it's pleasant.

Charlie Day has a very funny role as a nurse and Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a quick stop as an old flame. The other cast simply hold court while the main players stage a drama that goes down like apple pie after Thanksgiving dinner. 

The Hollars doesn't strive to change your outlook on film, but it does cast quite the spell. The soundtrack, bolstered by The Head and The Heart and Josh Ritter, mixes perfectly with the tempo of the story and doesn't overpower the movie. 

Krasinski, in his second directorial effort, has an ease behind the camera that you can't teach and want to see more of, especially if he finds more challenging material. 

Two of the films I enjoyed the most so far in 2016 starred John Krasinski and couldn't be any different. 13 Hours was about surviving in a terrible spot and this little comfort food gem is about surviving while remaining true to your roots. Easy going material. Done right. 

At the very least, see it for Martindale's heartfelt performance. 

Familiar yet potent, The Hollars will charm you for 90 minutes on a cool fall afternoon. 


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