BY ROGER THOMAS
As we move closer to the “Oscar Season” there will be quite a few large films hunting big audiences. There will also be some smaller films that capture the attention of cinematic fans. Some will stand out because of their story. Others will stand out because a very famous and successful actor or actress will be featured in a film which is a much smaller production than that “star” usually embraces. Then there are the petite films that often get lost in the shuffle. Perhaps someone will notice this film or that, or it will come and go with very little attention.
“The Hollars” is one of those films that will likely get overlooked. “Hollars” is a small film. It tells a simple story of a family facing a health crisis. One morning the aging mother of the clan has a seizure and she is diagnosed with a brain tumor. There is little choice whether to have surgery; to not means more seizures and almost certain death.
Her husband has financial problems with his business. Ron, one of their adult sons, has quite a few issues. John, the other son, is a struggling graphic artist living in New York. The three men gather at the hospital.
There is a lot more to the story, but ultimately, this is a very small film. Compared to many of the stories that fill the screens of multiplexes, “The Hollars” is straightforward and simple. This is a family who loves one another, but does not necessarily like each other all the time. They have disagreements and they disappoint one another. Just like most families we all have known throughout out lives.
I went into the film expecting very little, and discovered more. Margo Martindale plays Sally, the matriarch of the Hollar clan. She has won three Emmies and been nominated for numerous other awards but has never danced with Oscar. This may be her year. Her performance is flawless. It is one of those supporting roles that almost single-handedly saves a film from being a weak melodrama. Oscar-nominated actor Richard Jenkins plays Sally’s husband Don. Sharlto Copley and John Krasinski play the two sons, and collectively these four create an authentic family dealing with each other during a very stressful time.
Beyond these four characters there is doctor treating Sally, Ron’s ex-wife Stacey and their two daughters, and John’s girlfriend Rebecca. Stacey also has a new male friend who happens to be a minister. Most of the time ministers in films are not depicted well. They are either buffoons or too harsh to ever show any compassion. In this film, the minister seems to be a kind individual who actually wants to be a positive presence in the life of all of the Hollars. I appreciate that this minor character was more than I expected. But then again, the whole film was more than I expected it would be.
Once again, “The Hollars” is a simple film. It is a film about family and crisis. It is a film about the plans we make and the life that intrudes on our hopes and dreams. It is a film about aging parents, and adults who are not ready for their parents to be old or sick.
“The Hollars” resonated with me not because it was complex, intriguing or offered ideas that I had never pondered. I did not leave the theatre thinking, “Wow. That was an incredible time at the movies.” My reaction was far more simple and low key. It resonated with me because I have lived much of what was depicted on screen.
I laughed at about half of the humor and I teared up more than once. “The Hollars” is a simple film that gets more than a few things right.