The Sundance Film Festival is known at this point for producing its fair share of coming of age features every year. Some of these films, like Dope or Garden State, represent the tride and true genre with style and heart. Others, like the dreadful The Fundamentals of Caring, make for painfully generic feature films.
Now we have the latest of Sundance’s coming of age offerings The Hollars arriving on DVD. This is the directorial debut of John Krasinski, most known for his role in the hit show The Office. The film follows John Hollar returns to his small hometown after learning that his mother has fallen ill and is about to undergo surgery.
The Hollars wears its Sundance roots on its chest, which is both a strength and flaw. While the film doesn’t reinvent the wheel, its a sweet and charming enough diversion throughout.
Despite the film’s limited budget, this film features a great cast. As the star, Krasinski shows a few new layers here, delivering a naturalistic and vulnerable performance. Stealing the show is Margo Martindale, who nuanced performance breathes new life into the film. She relays a lot of personality into what could be a rather thankless role. The scenes between these two are the film’s best, with honest reflections on life.
Surrounding the duo is several talented actors. Richard Jenkins is one of the most underrated actors working today, always breathing life into each role. Anna Kendrick, Sharlto Copley, and Charlie Day are also fine with what they have to work with.
As a director, Krasinski is clearly inspired by Zach Braff’s Garden State, especially considering the film’s folky soundtrack. This inspiration isn’t a bad quality however, with Krasinski doing a rather assured job here. His style is fairly subdued, but Krasinski does a good job of not making the dramatic beats feel overly-saccharine. Everything feels natural in its own quirky way, which is a quality that some coming of age films struggle with.
What hurts The Hollars the most is its played-out screenplay. Just as someone can tell from the set-up, this storyline is one that has been done to death. While the cast certainly breathes some life into it, the film struggles at making itself stand out among the crowd.
Even worse is the fact there is too much going on. The core storyline involving the family dealing with its matriarch in the hospital is quite good, but there are too many side elements that go nowhere. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays John’s ex-girlfriend and literally has one scene of the movie despite being talked about several times. There is just way too much going on.
The Hollars is not the most memorable movie, but its a pleasant watch from start to finish. John Krasinski may have a future as a director, having a knack for sincerity and directing actors.