The Holdovers is a 2023 heartfelt comedy directed by Alexander Payne, yet, it feels like it was made in 1970, the year that the film takes place; this is a compliment to not only the cinematography (Eigil Bryld) which is going to include grain and filming techniques popular of that year, but also to the production design that gets all aspects of the set to look and feel like this age, and the editor (Kevin Tent) who splices this film together similar to a classic film of that period would be (from the old MPAA screen, to credit titles at the beginning of the film, and more!). A moment in time captured so vividly isn’t enough to make a good film, but it surely adds to the delight that the film has to offer. The heart of the film rests in the script by David Hemingson, who has penned a sweet nostalgic character-driven film that is elevated by contrasting personalities that result in well-timed comedic and often, heartfelt humor.
An uptight history professor named Mr. Hunham (Paul Giamatti) is forced to stay on campus over the Christmas break to oversee a group of kids who have nowhere to go during the break (these kids are known as “The Holdovers”). An unlikely bond forms between him and another student, Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) who has done well in his class yet causes havoc for Mr. Hunham over this break. The school chef (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) who has experienced recent trauma also begins to get close to this group.
Normally, my favorite films have a central conflict where the characters aim to accomplish a particular goal; for me, those types of films often have the potential to be more visceral and intriguing. Films, like The Holdovers, where the characters have various interactions with each other without a direction I can anticipate normally seem lackluster. However, this script is incredible; every interaction has something that is either comical, develops the characters in a heartfelt manner, or both!
Paul Giamatti delivers a fantastic performance as the heartless Scrooge-like teacher. The timely delivery and mannerisms when delivering his lines are comical and entertaining to watch. Additionally, Sessa, despite not looking like the high school junior that he is supposed to be portraying, brings a quick-witted rebellious teenage angst that Giamatti’s character is going to have to learn to put up with. The chemistry between the duo is infectiously fun to watch as the film unfolds.
Themes of loss and its effects are evident in the film with the chef losing her son, Tully losing his father after his mom divorced him, and Mr. Hunham losing his Christmas vacation and soon to be more.
|Final Verdict:||A sweet nostalgic character-driven film that is elevated by contrasting personalities that result in well-timed comedic and often, heartfelt humor.|