"A Little Gem, Though Flawed"
What You Need To Know:
THE HOLLARS is funny, poignant, tragic, ultimately uplifting movie. It extols family, marriage, love, life, and grace with a lower case “g.” In doing so, it brings laughter, tears, drama, and joy. Finally, the Christian youth pastor’s positive character adds some faith-friendly elements to THE HOLLARS. The movie does contain, however, plenty of strong foul language and some other negative elements. That said, the plot problems are all resolved in a positive, uplifting manner. So, THE HOLLARS eventually leaves media-wise viewers with a life-affirming attitude.
(BB, CC, Pa, H, LLL, V, S, N, A, M) Strong moral worldview overall stressing family, marriage, love, and grace with a small “g” (including grace under pressure), with some supporting, overt Christian, redemptive content including a character who’s a genial, caring and forgiving youth pastor, with some pagan behavior such as protagonist lives with pregnant girlfriend, but this issue is resolved in a positive, joyful manner that’s uplifting, and a troubled character expresses some humanist skepticism regarding the youth pastor, but the youth pastor wins him over and even helps him; about 15 obscenities (including some “s” words), 14 strong profanities and seven light profanities; woman has operable brain tumor and faints; no sex scenes but protagonist is living with his pregnant girlfriend (though situation is resolved positively), and married ex-girlfriend kisses protagonist, but he doesn’t reciprocate; upper male nudity in a couple nonsexual scenes; alcohol use; no smoking or drugs; and, man spies on his ex-wife, who’s dating a youth pastor, man also sneaks into his ex-wife’s house to be with his two daughters, and family is dysfunctional but the dysfunction is not heavy or extremely heavy.
THE HOLLARS is a comedy-drama about a family facing a health crisis when the mother is diagnosed with an operable brain tumor. THE HOLLARS is one of the more entertaining, ultimately uplifting movies of the year, with some unexpected Christian, redemptive content, but there is also plenty of strong foul language and some humanist views expressed, though rebuked.
The movie opens with John Hollar, a struggling artist in New York, getting word from his pregnant live-in girlfriend, that his mother’s been diagnosed with a brain tumor. John isn’t sure he’s looking forward to having a baby. He also has that phobia known to modern men called “fear of commitment.”
John travels to the small hometown where he grew up to be by his mother’s side. His father, Don, is an emotional wreck. He thought the fainting spells his wife was having were just a weight problem. So, he’s now wracked by guilt. Meanwhile, John’s brother, Ron, is having regrets about divorcing his wife, who’s now taking care of their two young daughters. Also, the father just fired Ron from the family’s plumbing company because it’s on the verge of bankruptcy. Through all this, the mother, Sally, remains stoic about her condition. Though the tumor is operable, she’s almost resigned to the possibility she still might die, even if the surgeons are able to remove the tumor.
As John is swept up in his dysfunctional family’s problems, he has to deal with his rival, Jason, who married John’s high school sweetheart. This issue, and the ones affecting his family, will bring John to a turning point in his own life.
THE HOLLARS is funny, poignant, tragic, and uplifting. One of the funniest problems is that the brother’s ex-wife has started to date a youth pastor named Reverend Dan. This is driving the brother crazy, but the Reverend is a genial, caring guy, who handles the craziness with lots of grace. So, the movie has some overtly positive faith-friendly content, even though the brother is skeptical of Reverend Dan’s motives. In one funny moment, the troubled brother asks Dan not to push his Jesus beliefs on him. Dan replies that he never pushes his Christian faith on anyone who doesn’t want it. The screwy brother then asks Dan, “What do you believe,” thus giving Dan the chance to witness to him anyway. Later, in one of the movie’s final turning points, Reverend Dan gets the opportunity to play a role in one of the major decisions John makes. It’s an uplifting scene that leads to good feelings all around.
The worst things a critic might say about this movie is that it’s too predictable and sentimental. However, it’s not really that predictable, and there’s nothing wrong with being a little sentimental. Movies with a preponderance of uplifting content like THE HOLLARS are good in MOVIEGUIDE®’s estimation. Being sentimental is not a sin!
John Krasinski of American TV’s version of the British comedy, THE OFFICE, directs THE HOLLARS and stars as John. He elicits excellent performances from the whole cast, including himself. South African actor Sharlto Copley is very funny as the brother. Margo Martindale and Richard Jenkins turn in appealing performances as the parents. Anna Kendrick is sympathetic, understanding and strong as John’s girlfriend. Finally, singer Josh Groban turns in a very appealing performance as the Reverend.
One of the great things about THE HOLLARS is that it shows a typical dysfunctional American family dealing with the various stages of life, including Birth, Death, Health Crises, Romance, Marriage, Divorce, Failure, and even Faith. In the end, the characters face these life stages with love, joy and peace. As Director Krasinski himself notes in his Director’s Statement, the script is “at once universal in its themes and uniquely personal in its heart and sense of humor.” THE HOLLARS is not a perfect movie, but it’s a little gem.
Ultimately, THE HOLLARS extols family, marriage, love, life, and grace with a lower case “g.” In doing so, it brings laughter, tears, drama, and joy. To quote Ecclesiastes 3:1-5:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. . . .”
THE HOLLARS does, however, have plenty of strong foul language. For instance, when the father learns the full extent of his wife’s health crisis, he quietly lets off a string of strong profanities. This is annoying, but real and sympathetic, considering what’s just happened to his beloved wife. That said, the movie has some other strong profanities and obscenities that aren’t so understandable and warrant strong caution. Also, the protagonist is living with his pregnant girlfriend, though this plot point is resolved in a very positive, uplifting manner.
THE HOLLARS eventually leaves media-wise viewers with a life-affirming attitude. Sadly, though, the foul language that occurs before the uplifting ending is just too much.