Interview: “The Hollars” Producer Tom Rice

Posted on September 28, 2016 at 9:49 pm

Copyright Sony Pictures Classics 2016
Copyright Sony Pictures Classics 2016
Producer Tom Rice (“The Way Way Back,” Mississippi Grind”) answered my questions about the endearing independent film “The Hollars,” with director John Krasinski starring as a confused young man about to become a father, who is called home when his mother is hospitalized with a brain tumor. The brilliant cast includes Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Sharlto Copley, and, as a kind-hearted church youth leader, singer Josh Groban.

How did you first come upon the script?

I read the script on an airplane and immediately fell in love with it. I was laughing out loud, I was crying – people were looking at me, and I didn’t care. I fell for these characters, and saw my own family in the Hollars. I fell in love with the sincerity and love these people have for each other – in the midst of the chaos and dysfunction. It’s such a special story, and it fits right into the Sycamore ethos.

What matters most to you in the projects you commit to?

Any project we greenlight has to fit the ethos of our company. The Sycamore mission is to make films with elements of redemption, reconciliation, social justice, or what Andy Crouch calls the “full human condition.” We don’t ever set out to make blatantly Christian films – but I hope everything we do will have some type of positive impact on our culture and community.

What did John Krasinski bring to the film as director?

Everything. It was his passion that kept this project alive during development. It was his vision that attracted the cast. It was his charm, humor and sensibility that’s organically infused in every scene. And it was his leadership that everyone got behind, every step of the way. John is a very well-loved person, and people will come out of the woodwork to support him.

What do stories about loving but dysfunctional families help us understand about ourselves?

Well, I think everyone will relate to this film in some way. For me, it’s about grace. Family is everything to me, but it’s not always easy. Communication, honesty, forgiveness, love – those are all necessary. We all need to be more giving in those areas, because we all need it to be given to us. It’s grace in action. We’re all messy, we’re all broken – and we all try to pretend like we’re not. When a story like this comes along and shines a light on that – with a perfect blend of heart and humor – I think it inspires us to let down our own guard a little – take of our masks, so to speak – and trust ourselves and our loved ones with who we really are.

Copyright Sony Pictures Classics 2016
Copyright Sony Pictures Classics 2016
One of the film’s most endearing characters is singer Josh Groban as a church youth leader. How did he get the role and what does it add to the film?

Josh and John are friends, and so Josh took the role when John reached out and offered it to him. Josh is perfect casting here. He brings such a likeable, calm yet authoritative presence to the role. He never has any passages of dialogue where he’s preaching – but his character has a strong impact on another character just by being patient and understanding with him – and this grace – there’s that word again – allows the other character to grow and change. It’s a beautiful and honest portrayal of a good man.

Although it is not explicitly a faith-centered film, how does it touch on matters of purpose and connection?

I really hope those discussions are about healing. How it’s never too late to make amends, or to grow closer without the burden of the past weighing us down. This is true in human relationships, and central to our relationship with God. We can meet God wherever we are in life, and He’s there for us. And I would hope everyone has someone in their life – a family member or friend – that embodies that. We are all built for community. We need each other, and this film is about our human need for those relationships in so many ways – especially familial.

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Behind the Scenes Interview

Aloha

Posted on May 28, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Copyright 2015 Columbia Pictures
Copyright 2015 Columbia Pictures
Writer/director Cameron Crowe presents us with an attractive and talented but messy and compromised hero in “Aloha,” and asks us to root for him. The problem is that the film itself is attractive, talent-filled, messy, and compromised, and harder to root for than the hero of the story.

That hero is Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), once an 11-year-old who loved the sky so much he wanted to identify everything in it. In a quick narrated recap that opens the film we learn that after he grew up things went well for him (in the military) and then not so well, and then badly. While working for a private contractor in Kabul, he was badly injured, and apparently not in the way that gets you a Purple Heart.

Brian arrives in Hawaii and needs to prove himself. His former employer, Carson Welch (Bill Murray) is one of the wealthiest men in the world, presiding over a telecommunications empire. He and the Air Force are working together on a big project that involves the development of land on the island that was a burial ground for the indigenous people. The Air Force assigns a “fast burner” named Sergeant Ng (Emma Stone) to work with get the cooperation of the King of the native population to build on that property, and to show that by performing a blessing ceremony. The King is played by real-life King Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, and he is one of the few from Brian’s past who seems to like him much. Welch does not. The Air Force General (Alec Baldwin, volcanically angry) does not. Then there is Brian’s ex-girlfriend, Tracy (Rachel McAdams), now married to an Air Force pilot and the mother of two children.

It totally goes off the rails several times, with a plot that would daunt a Bond villain thwarted by a completely ridiculous hacking scene, plus a last-minute redemptive reconciliation that is so far off the mark of any known human response the characters would be just as likely to sprout feathers and levitate off the ground. While the Hawaiian natives and their struggle against what they see as American imperialism and colonialism are sympathetically portrayed, it is still a story that is about white people and their problems. And the casting of Emma Stone as bi-racial is insensitive at best.

But like its hero and its writer/director, it won me back with the crackle of its dialog and charm of its poetry, even in the hacking scene, and especially in a statement of romantic intent that is one of the best I’ve seen in many months. It is also very funny, with a wonderfully expressive performance from Krasinski as the taciturn Woody, and thoughtful work from Cooper, who keeps getting better at finding moments of surprising insight and nuance with every performance.

Parents should know that this film includes strong language, sexual references and non-explicit situation, paternity issue, references to war-related violence and injuries and to weapons of mass destruction, references to imperialism and colonialism, and alcohol.

Family discussion: Why did Ng talk so much about being one-quarter Hawaiian? Why was the King the only person from Brian’s past who seemed to like him? What happens when billionaires make decisions that used to be made by government?

If you like this, try: “The Descendants,” and “Almost Famous”

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Comedy Drama Romance
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