John Hollar's life hasn't exactly been going as he'd planned. In fact, it's been just this side of a train wreck.
His hoped-for career as a graphic novelist is stuck in limbo. His day job is unsatisfying. And his girlfriend, Rebecca, is, well, unexpectedly great with child.
On top of all that, he just found out that his mom is sick.
Since moving to New York, he hasn't kept close contact with his family. So the news that his mother has had a tumor growing in her head for the last 10 years or so comes as something of a shock.
On the other hand, he's not the only Hollar male who's been broadsided by the revelation.
John's misfit older brother, Ron, has been living in their parents' basement ever since his divorce. And he's so wrapped up obsessively stalking his ex and their two daughters, that, well, Mom's worsening condition slipped his notice, too. Meanwhile, their frittering father, Don, figured wife Sally's physical issues were weight related. He sent her to Jenny Craig. Oops.
So when John arrives back at the little home he grew up in, he's immediately swept up in the problems of his wacky family: their failing business, their debt, the general day-to-day insanity and inanity. He even gets a bit of temptation thrown his way courtesy of a now-married ex-girlfriend who still has the hots for him.
As he puffs on a cigarette—never mind that he told Rebecca he wouldn't smoke—John thinks about the options in front of him. Life is indeed complicated. And if it weren't so head-shakingly strange, quirky and just a tiny bit funny, it might be too frightening to bear.
In spite of the Hollar family's overflowing dysfunction, there is an obvious love at their familial core that settles them and helps them prop up one another. For instance, when Sally starts to panic about going into a potentially dangerous surgery, her family members join together to sing one of her favorite songs to her. The beauty of the hopeful tune rings in her mind and helps her keep her anxiety at bay.
It's also obvious that Sally is the wise and loving rock of the family. She speaks privately with each man and asks them to be strong for the other two. They, in turn, reach out in love to each other. Rebecca flies in to support John in the course of his mother's illness, and she's received with open arms by John's parents. Sally, in particular, appreciates Rebecca's stabilizing effect on her son. "Men need to be pushed," she tells the younger woman. [Spoiler Warning] John eventually realizes how much he loves and needs Rebecca, and they tie the knot.
John is consistently tender and caring with his mother. When she worries about having her head shaved for surgery, he gently does it for her. And while sharing a meal together, Sally imparts a bit of wisdom about life that she learned from her mother. "Don't waste your time with the bad, live for the good," she tells her son.
Ron's ex-wife, Stacey, is dating a youth pastor named Dan. And though Dan is initially viewed as something of a home-wrecking enemy, he eventually facilitates dialogue between Ron and Stacey and helps Ron to reconnect with his loving daughters. In the process, Ron asks Dan, "You're not gonna force any Jesus s--- on me are you?" To which Dan calmly replies, "I don't force my personal beliefs on anybody." "What are your beliefs?" Ron wonders aloud as they walk off to talk.
Though none of the Hollar family members speak of faith, there is a sense that they all share a hope for something beyond this mortal life.
John's ex-girlfriend, Gwen, wears a skimpy blouse that reveals her bra and cleavage. When he's invited over to her house for dinner, she embraces and kisses him while her husband is out of the room, much to John's shock. Elsewhere, John and Rebecca cuddle and kiss. We see Ron in boxer shorts.
Sally collapses to the bathroom floor while getting ready in the morning, her curling iron burning her arm.
Crude or Profane Language
Jesus' name is abused (in various forms) about 20 times. God's name is misused once. One f-word and 10 s-words join multiple exclamations of "b--tard," "a--," "h---" and "d--n."
Drug and Alcohol Content
John smokes several cigarettes. He and a few others also drink beer. At one point we're given the impression that Don, in the midst of his depression, goes to a liquor store to drown his sorrows. But we find out that he actually gets a job there to bring in some extra money.
Other Negative Elements
Ron urinates into a pitcher with his back to the camera.
Life is a grinding, weighty thing. Commitment is incredibly scary. Family members are often irritating. The unexpected can be brutal. And yet … all those things are worth the effort. They can make you a better, stronger person. You simply need to find the love and the fortitude to make it through.
That's the endearing, redemptive message of The Hollars, a dramedy directed by and starring John Krasinski. It's a funny, sweet and well-acted pic with a sitcom-like tempo. And in between its quick quips, moving moments and wistful eye wipes, it delivers a nicely affirming nod to the whole idea of family, as well as a family's ability to heal, help and hold up under stress and strain.
That's not to suggest that this earnest dramedy won't have its detractors. Some cynics might balk at the pic's sentimental denouement. And this movie's unfortunate profanity—especially those misuses of Jesus' name—may drive it out of bounds for family-focused viewers who would likely appreciate its significant, positive themes the most.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
John Krasinski as John Hollar; Margo Martindale as Sally Hollar; Sharlto Copley as Ron Hollar; Richard Jenkins as Don Hollar; Anna Kendrick as Rebecca; Josh Groban as Reverend Dan
John Krasinski ( )
Sony Pictures Classics
August 26, 2016
December 6, 2016