You know that feeling you get after stuffing yourself with too much chocolate — bloated and slow-witted, and there’s this taste at the back of the throat, a creepy mix of corn syrup and bile?
That’s where I was by the end of “The Hollars,” an uneven comedy-drama about the loving bonds that help a middle-class Ohio family rise above its many — MANY — dysfunctions.
Opening with a promising first act of well-observed, edgy humor, the film ends with an overdose of treacle so syrupy, so pungent, it will unsettle the strongest tummy.
“The Hollars” is the second directorial effort from actor John Krasinski, who made a noticeable splash with 2007’s ambitious, if inconsistent, “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.”
His debut received mixed reviews. And “The Hollars” — despite fine performances by Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Sharlto Copley and Anna Kendrick — descends into a chaotic free-for-all of plot twists that has Krasinski throwing everything at his audience, including the kitchen sink, as well as the stove, the linoleum floor and those dingy squares used in drop ceilings.
The story is told largely from the point of view of John Hollar (Krasinski), a 30ish aspiring graphic novelist who has a miserable job at a New York publishing house. A perpetual teen lost in daydreams, his life is regimented by his pregnant girlfriend, Rebecca (Kendrick), who’s waiting for a marriage proposal that never seems to come.
John crashes down into the real world, and the rest of his family, when he goes to his parents’ house in Ohio after hearing that his mom, Sally (Martindale), has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Sally awaits an operation while the rest of the brood is ensconced at her house.
The film raises serious issues — the decline of the middle class, health-care costs, the trials of parenthood — only to sabotage itself with a relentlessly life-affirming story line that veers hither and thither to include contrived plot points and an ocean of themes. In addition to a major illness, unemployment and divorce, there’s bankruptcy, a wedding, a funeral, a birth, a custody dispute and even the ministrations of a wise young pastor (Josh Groban).
This is a film that doesn’t know when to end, made by a filmmaker who seems convinced that if he doesn’t express every idea in his head in this one movie, his world will end.
It’s a shame. Krasinski is a terrific comic actor and has potential as a director. He just needs to slow down and take a breath.
Rated PG-13 for some profanity, thematic elements. 1:28. Kentucky.