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Yet while its brand of laughter-through-the-tears humanism is utterly familiar, that’s not to say it bears even a glancing resemblance to real life: The emotional responses elicited here go about as deep as the “awwws” and “ahhhs” of a live studio audience at a network sitcom taping.
While he’s more collected than his manchild of an older brother, John wrestles with the kind of standard-issue Insecurities Over Impending Fatherhood that are all too easily treated by an awkward encounter with randy ex-girlfriend Gwen.“The Hollars,” however, is assured okay — if little more — from the very beginning.A Sycamore Pictures, Sunday Night production in association with Groundswell Prods.The bitty plot is set in motion in the very first scene, as Sally is felled by a blindsiding seizure during her morning beauty routine — at 88 minutes, the pic is nothing if not brisk in its movements. Fong (Randall Park) also wastes little time in dishing out the bad news: Sally has an advanced brain tumor of over a decade’s standing, and requires swift, high-risk surgery.She takes the diagnosis in her typically stalwart stride.Hospital-room singalongs to the Indigo Girls, yellow cab rides from Manhattan to the Midwest, careers in canine couture — all inexplicable in any context but that of the Sundance family dramedy, where such eccentricities aren’t just expected but positively mandatory.
A blandly diverting exercise in quirk-by-numbers, John Krasinki’s “The Hollars” peppily charts the further unraveling of an already dysfunctional clan when its guiding matriarch is faced with a life-threatening brain tumor.
More openly devastated are her husband Don (Richard Jenkins, doing his best Richard Jenkins), whose mild manner conceals profound desperation over the dire financial state of his plumbing business, and ne’er-do-well son Ron (Sharlto Copley, in the film’s one counterintuitive casting move), a jobless, divorce-burned hothead reduced to living in his parents’ basement.
Bundled onto a plane by his heavily pregnant, tirelessly thoughtful girlfriend Becca (a sorely underused Anna Kendrick), John heads back home to keep his stricken family in some semblance of order.
Cervantes and Shakespeare almost certainly never met, but the closer you look at the pages they left behind the more echoes you hear. Act I, Scene Two brings on the intrigue at the court of Elsinore: the angry scholar prince, his recently widowed mother wedded to his uncle (“O most wicked speed, to post/With such dexterity to incestuous sheets”).
The first, and to my mind the most valuable shared idea is the belief that a work of literature doesn’t have to be simply comic, or tragic, or romantic, or political/historical: that, if properly conceived, it can be many things at the same time. Act I, Scene Three, and here’s Ophelia, telling her dubious father, Polonius, the beginning of what will become a sad love story: “My lord, he hath importuned me with love/In honourable fashion.” Act I, Scene Four, and it’s a ghost story again, and something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Not that you’ll need any such cues to tell precisely where the film is headed as it gears up for a teary finale that, thanks to the actors’ precise hitting of their emotional marks, may leave viewers a little moist-cheeked in spite of themselves.