John Krasinski, best known for playing Jim Halpert on the hit television series The Office, has enjoyed occupying a familiar nice-guy comfort zone in the viewing public’s consciousness, but in no way should we be so quick to stereotype him. Throughout his career, he has found ways to invest each and everyone one of his characters with subtle human foibles, distinct enough that, if somehow these characters were able to gather together at a convention – a John Krasinski roast, maybe – they would certainly stand out, in their own individual ways. And more importantly, they would bond with one another, as much as we, as an audience, have been taken with them.
Which is why it comes as no surprise that his latest directorial effort, The Hollars, involves yet another Krasinski type. This iteration, John Hollar is a New York transplant who escaped the small town where he was raised, in pursuit of his artistic dreams. He’s a graphic novelist, living with his pregnant girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick) in a state of unease, that worsens when he receives news that his mother Sally (Margo Martindale) has a brain tumor and must undergo immediate surgery to remove it.
He returns to find his older brother Ron (Sharlto Copley) living in his parents’ basement, struggling with his ex-wife and his devotion to his two young daughters, while their father Don (Richard Jenkins) appears unable to maintain any hold on his life. His business is failing. He’s a basket-case anytime he looks at his wife in her precarious state. And he’s feuding with Ron over the business.
John suffers even more, entering these familiar dynamics he obviously thought were in his past. His situation is further complicated by his high school sweetheart (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and her jealous husband (Charlie Day) who happens to be Sally’s nurse.
This synopsis sets up a basket full of conflicts, and knowing Krasinski and this cast, you can’t be faulted for instantly suspecting that there’s likely a heaping helping of humor sweetening this concoction. Everyone on board has the timing and chops to tease and coax laughs out of any given scene without allowing the whole thing to slip into broad hijinks. But, it must be noted that, time and again, rather than merely milking comedic teat, Krasinski and company tap into the drama, the lived-in sense of family and community, the love and the leaning on one another that exists when creative trust takes over.
The Hollars is about a family, and watching this cast together, there’s no doubt that they are a creative family too. Everyone has experience working on larger Hollywood projects, but if you take a second, closer look at these players, they share a love for smaller indie fare – the kind of projects that allow them to “become” more than characters drawn with language on a page. Here, the Hollars are recognizable people, friends and neighbors, maybe even relatives. Better still, John Hollar might prove to be you or me, searching for the best version of ourselves in trying times.
Welcome, John Hollar, to the John Krasinski reunion! (Opens today at The Esquire Theatre in Cincinnati and The Neon in Dayton)
Rated: PG-13; Grade: B+