A great cast can’t overcome the indie clichés of ‘The Hollars’

Get some serious family time with The Hollars.

Two stars

The Hollars John Krasinski, Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Sharlto Copley. Directed by John Krasinski. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday at Regal Village Square.

John Krasinski must be great to work with, because he’s managed to assemble a seriously impressive cast for his second directorial effort, the painfully generic indie family drama The Hollars. Krasinski himself stars as John Hollar, an affable but slightly lost 30-something working at a nondescript office job in New York City but still harboring vague artistic ambitions. In the tradition of many indie-movie protagonists, John returns to his hometown following a family tragedy, reconnecting with his relatives and learning valuable, extremely obvious life lessons while plaintive acoustic alt-rock songs play on the soundtrack.

There is nothing about The Hollars that isn’t cutesy and predictable, including its sprawl of subplots about various supporting characters. John’s brother Ron (Sharlto Copley, in what may be his first performance as a normal human being) is desperate to reunite with his ex-wife and two daughters, which he pursues by spying on them from his car and climbing in his daughters’ window in the middle of the night. While John’s mom Sally (Margo Martindale) is in the hospital being treated for a brain tumor, his dad Donald (Richard Jenkins) is about to lose the longtime family business. Back in New York, John’s girlfriend Becca (Anna Kendrick) is pregnant with their first child and wondering about his commitment to their relationship.

Charlie Day, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Mary Kay Place, Randall Park and Josh Groban also show up in small roles, and the sheer talent of the cast occasionally overcomes the clichéd script by James C. Strouse and Krasinski’s uninspired, pedestrian direction. Even so, the humor is often forced, the emotions are overwrought, and the swelling music cues lose even their minor emotional effectiveness after the third or fourth time. Through their mild traumas, the Hollars come together as a family, affirm their inherent goodness and move optimistically into the future. The audience, thankfully, gets to move on without them.

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