August 26, 2016
Costume Design often has to bring different time periods and worlds to life. But one of the most difficult and underappreciated design problems is to create the world which we are most familiar with—our own. In the film The Hollars, Costume Designer Caroline Eselin and director John Krasinski strove for a universality in the costumes, which belied the film being shot in Jackson, Mississippi. Because color plays a strong regional component in the south, Eselin avoided it for members of the dysfunctional family. Instead, she kept their palette muted and neutral. Her choices insured that there would be no visual distraction from the narrative that follows a frustrated graphic artist as he deals with his mother’s terminal illness. In the end, Krasinski felt this discreet approach was successful, noting, “It’s great because people think it’s America.”
“Director [and lead actor] John Krasinski was very involved and accessible,” explains Eselin, “he was passionate about the story and excited to talk about costumes. The dynamic was great because I got him almost double time: I got him also as an actor, and I also got him as a director. It was great to have that access.”
John Hollar (Krasinski) is a comic-book artist trapped in a desk job in New York. “The first thing John and I spoke about was that he really wanted this character to be in a blue Oxford shirt and khakis. Basically it’s the saddest, business casual uniform possible to show the sad state of his life,” says Eselin. This direction became her point of departure. Eslein tried to use his other garments to help the audience more fully understand who John is. The influence of New York shows in the dark tones he wears during the beginning of the film. But as the story progresses, he finds himself, and Eselin carefully lightened his colors to reflect this mood.
In contrast, John’s girlfriend, Rebecca (Anna Kendrick), is sassy and comes from money. Eselin emphasized her pregnancy, noting, “We wanted to give her the most darling, bubbliest maternity clothes possible, while still giving her a polished feel.” A consummate New Yorker, Rebecca is always in heels, even when eight months pregnant.
The ensemble cast is rounded out by Ron Hollar (Sharlto Copley), John’s brother whom Eselin dresses in his high school tracksuit to show he is trapped in time and is still attached to clothes that evoke his better years. The father (Richard Jenkins) has an every dad appeal, and mother (Margo Martindale) is dressed in a hospital gown but wears bathrobes that make her softer and more endearing. The sole place Eselin employed color was in the hospital. She surrounded the family in crisis with nurses and people in cheery, pleasant tones.
“Just finding the character, and the discovery period is always a joy,” says Eselin, “That’s the time spent in the fitting room. I just love the process. We tried so many different things, and the actors were searching to get it right too. It was great. I really can’t say enough. They were so wonderful. I think it’s a very sweet movie.”
The Hollars, from Sony Pictures Classics, is in theatres today.