John Krasinski, who not only co-stars in the touching new dramedy The Hollars but also expertly directs it, has said he wanted to make a Terms Of Endearment for a new generation. If the balance of hearty laughs and earned tears is any indication, he has succeeded. This is a roaringly funny movie filled with heart and emotion. The film opened on a limited basis over the weekend in New York and Los Angeles, but as I say in my video review above, this could truly be a word-of-mouth hit as it rolls out wider. It has the kind of rich tapestry to which audiences will definitely relate, not to mention a killer cast that makes it all shine. The Hollars are a dysfunctional sort of family, no mistake about it, but they are all recognizably human in a sweet, not quite understated manner.

It is easy to see how Krasinski, who turns out to be a wonderfully accomplished director with his second feature behind the camera (the first was 2009’s Brief Interview With Hideous Men), was drawn to Jim Strouse’s funny and truthful screenplay and was able to attract a high-caliber cast to bring it all to life on a shooting schedule I am told was only 22 days.

deadline-review-badge-pete-hammond

The story revolves around the newly diagnosed brain tumor of Hollar family matriarch Sally (Margo Martindale), who spends most of the movie in a hospital bed surrounded at various times by different members of the family. Hit hardest by this news is husband Don (Richard Jenkins), who is also dealing with a failing business that has put him and the family on the verge of bankruptcy. He is an emotional guy who can’t help but constantly break down in tears at the prospect of losing the person who is clearly the rock of this group. Added to the mix is son Ron (Sharlto Copley of District 9)a bit of a slacker dealing with the after-effects of a divorce that has kept his visitation with his two daughters at a minimum. Krasinski plays the other son, John, who returns home after his mom’s diagnosis but also is dealing with his own life-changing moment: his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) is about to give birth to their child. Ashley Dyke is Ron’s ex, Josh Groban is her new hubby Rev. Dan, and Charlie Day is a hospital orderly helping Sally but who also happens to be married to Gwen, a former girlfriend of John’s just to add to the complicated relationship chart here.

Each of these characters has their own moments to make an impression, a credit to Krasinski in managing to balance everything out and strike a tricky tone that constantly walks the line between comedy and drama — no easy task. At its heart though are exceptional performances from veterans Martindale and Jenkins who prove again what terrific pros they really are. For Martindale, this is the kind of rich screen opportunity I have been hoping this two-time Emmy winner would get. She truly is magnificent here and if the actors branch of the Motion Picture Academy doesn’t reward her with an overdue Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, they should all be kicked out for malpractice. Jenkins matches her toe to toe and deserves equal recognition, which I suppose will depend on the film gaining traction throughout the fall as stiff competition competes for screens and Oscar-voter attention. They shouldn’t just be nominated, they should be the front-runners if there was any justice. Two better performances I have not seen all year.

The rest of the cast including Krasinski, a deft actor who got his comic chops for nine seasons on The Office, is also very fine with a special shout-out to Copley, the South African actor with a dead-on American accent. Day is also always welcome comic relief.

Krasinski produced along with Ben Nearn, Tom Rice and Allyson Seeger. Sony Pictures Classics picked up the film after it premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Do you plan to see The Hollars? Let us know what you think.