The new movie The Hollars covers a familiar topic: That of the problems of dealing with family. In the movie John Krasinski (who also directed) plays John, the son of Don and Sally (Richard Jenkins and Martindale). John is an artist who’s left his small hometown to be a success in New York City, though he hasn’t quite achieved that success yet. He’s back because his mother is about to have brain surgery but that also means dealing with his largely dysfunctional, if still loving, family.
While he’s once again in the midst of family drama John is also dealing with changes in his own life, most notably that his girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick) is pregnant with twins, leading him to question whether he’s ready for such a big step and kind of freak out a little. That’s even further complicated by the fact that the nurse who’s helping his mother is the husband of an ex-girlfriend. So it’s one more story about how an early-30s white guy can’t cope with the fact that he’s getting older and that there’s something expected of him. Let’s take a look at how Sony Classics is selling it.
I really like the design going on in the first poster. With pictures that are broken up and spread around like a collage, they show different groupings of the cast as a way to convey some of the key story elements. So you see Krasinski and Kendrick both in a loving situation and with him wheeling her very pregnant self down a hospital corridor, Jenkins and Martindale laughing in a hospital room and so on. It’s not going to win any design awards, but I like how it’s used to not just show off the cast but also tell the audience something about what they’ll be watching.
The first trailer opens with the family gathering around Sally as she’s admitted to the hospital for what is a serious problem but which everyone first thought was just a symptom of her being overweight, which is meant to show kind of how this family operates. We see John hasn’t been around a whole lot, and his return brings some issues out into the open, including his failure to commit to Rebecca, his pregnant girlfriend. It also brings him back into his ex-girlfriend Gwen, who still has feelings for him, evidenced by her kissing him while he’s over for dinner with her and her husband, who’s also the nurse caring for John’s mom. Rebecca goes into labor, everyone learns some lessons and the trailer is done.
It’s a good trailer that sells a movie we’ve seen a number of times before. There’s nothing that’s shown here that isn’t pretty familiar to audiences of this kind of mid-level ensemble indie dramady, so what the trailer needs to sell is what’s around the edges, the gracenotes that differentiate this from what’s come before. It does that to some extent by focusing on Martindale, including by using critics’ quotes praising her performance. Yes, there are more recognizable stars, but she’s the secret weapon so the trailer is wise to pull her out to help sell yet another story of a dysfunctional white family.
Online and Social
When you load the official site the trailer plays in a pop-up and when you close that you get a cropped recreation of the key art. You can access the site’s content by either using the menu on the right or just scrolling down the page.
First up is “About” which has a good story Synopsis along with a Director’s Statement where Krasinski talks a little about what drew him to the material, what he’s trying to say with the movie and more.
After that the “Cast” section gives you brief career writeups about the major actors, of which there are plenty. Click any of their names and you’ll be able to read a history of their work. That’s followed by “Filmmakers” which is the same thing but for those behind-the-scenes.
The “Gallery” has a number of stills from the movie. Then “Links” has links (natch) to the movie’s Facebook page as well as to the IMDB profiles for the cast. Finally there’s a section called “Reviews” but at this time there’s only one review there, including a link to the full piece.
At the very bottom of the page there’s another link to the movie’s Facebook page as well as the Sony Network Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’m aware of here, though I’m sure there will be some online ads run over the course of this week as well as after the movie has finally hit theaters, particularly if or when it starts expanding from limited release.
Media and Publicity
The movie debuted at Sundance 2016, where it got decent word-of-mouth for the cast, if not the story, and what generally seen to be a pleasant film that would play well with most audiences. While there Krasinski and the rest of the cast talked about the story and how the film fit into the overall Sundance narrative. It wasn’t one of the early sales but the film was eventually picked up by Sony Pictures Classics.
Outside of that, though, there doesn’t seem to have been much of a press push. Mostly the coverage appears to have been generated by the release of marketing materials and clips and now from cast making the rounds. There’s been a little of that but not much.
I do like this campaign. It’s not exactly a huge push but the trailer is solid and the rest of the marketing sells a movie that, as I said, seems more than a little familiar but doesn’t necessarily suffer for it. It’s not making any great claims to originality but does promise a decent story that we more or less know, but with a few variations around the edges to give it some flavor. It’s a burger, but one with the special sauce from that restaurant you like that gives it a little kick.
The biggest problems it has to overcome, it seems are 1) It’s very much a White Guys Problem movie, with an all-white cast complaining about things that only happen to middle-class, relatively comfortable Caucasians and 2) That it doesn’t seem to have much buzz coming into opening week. There’s no one talking about this and that’s not going to do any favors for it in theaters. The familiarity of the subject matter could be contributing to this, making it something that sure, you’ll watch on Netflix when it’s there in a year but it hasn’t made a strong enough case to seek it out.