After a summer of disappointing big budget, Hollywood movies, it’s refreshing to see dramas with multi-dimensional characters in relatable situations return to theaters. Case in point, the comedic-drama, The Hollars. Written by Jim Strouse (Lonesome Jim, Grace Is Gone, The Winning Season) and directed by actor John Krasinski (13 Hours, TV’s The Office), The Hollars examines the life of a struggling New York City artist, John Hollar (Krasinski), who comes back to his small town home upon hearing of his mother’s illness.

The Hollars’ lives are messy

Having left behind his hometown some years back, John’s return immediately thrusts him back into his family and friends’ dysfunction.

First there are John’s ill mother, Sally (Margo Martindale), and his distraught, nearly bankrupt father, Don (Richard Jenkins), who initially thought a Jenny Craig diet would cure Sally’s brain tumor ailments. Next is John’s divorced and recently fired brother, Ron (Sharlto Copley). Now living at home, Ron can’t help himself from spying on the happy lives of his ex-wife and kids, now living with Reverend Dan (Josh Groban). If that weren’t enough, Sally’s nurse, Jason (Charlie Day), is the jealous husband of John’s former girlfriend, Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who still holds a flame for John.

But it’s not only John’s family who lead messy lives, John also exhibits bouts of angst. His life as an artist has never taken off and he’s unsettled about his own impending fatherhood with his very-pregnant girlfriend, Rebecca (Anna Kendrick).

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Nothing like returning home to balance one’s inner turmoil. 

The Hollars’ extraordinary cast

Without a doubt, The Hollars would be a much lesser film if it weren’t for the talented ensemble that Krasinski and his producers have put together. Emmy-winner Margo Martindale continues to be one of the most interesting actors working today and serves as the matriarch holding the family together, even in illness. Richard Jenkins, an Academy Award winner himself, handles with aplomb the complexities of his ill wife and failing business. South African Copley (District 9) takes on the lost boy role of Ron, driving his family (and audiences) nuts, while still creating those moments of sympathy. And finally Krasinski and the fun, luminous Kendrick anchor the film with their solid, semi-straight guy/gal performances.

The Hollars and its seven-year journey to screen

In an exclusive letter to the Landmark Theatre chain, Krasinski details the long journey from script to screen. Having been a big fan of writer Jim Strouse’s work, Krasinski had signed on to act in this film nearly seven years ago.

As Krasinski’s letter states, “Jim’s script navigates hairpin turns between emotion and comedy in ways that are not only near impossible to pull off, but as I’ve realized, are the key to mirroring the truth of real life.” But a tough time getting funding followed. After a few years, a former financier asked if Krasinski would buy the script with an aim to direct the project. Krasinski accepted.

In only his second outing as director – the first was the 2009 indie, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men – Krasinski shows a directorial assurance both with his talented cast and the offbeat, tonally tricky script. And as actor, he delivers an equally strong performance alongside his winning cast. So, for those seeking refuge from the summer’s bloated action films, come spend some time with The Hollars.