The Holdovers Movie Review Rating:
Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: David Hemingson
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dominic Sessa
Rating: R (Some Drug Use|Language|Brief Sexual Material)
Genre: Holiday, Comedy, Drama
Release Date (Theaters): Nov 10, 2023
Isn’t available for streaming yet
Runtime: 2h 13m
The Holdovers Movie Review: Summary
The story unfolds during the 1970 holidays at a New England prep school, where a curmudgeonly professor, a misanthropic teen, and a grieving mother find themselves stranded. Payne’s masterful direction captures the essence of the era with meticulous attention to period details and a dual mission of nostalgia. The film’s standout performances, particularly Paul Giamatti’s nuanced portrayal of Professor Hunham and Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s authentic depiction of Mary Lamb, elevate the narrative. As the characters navigate personal tragedies and the complexities of connection, “The Holdovers” becomes a bittersweet addition to the holiday film repertoire, skillfully blending sharp comedy, genuine emotion, and a touch of magic.
“The Holdovers” excels in its portrayal of moody and contentious characters, a trademark of director Alexander Payne. The film crackles with energy, blending sharp comedy, attitude, freshness, and wisdom. Payne’s expertise in characterization stands out, creating a dynamic and engaging narrative.
While the film captures the essence of 1970 with meticulous attention to period details, some may find the emphasis on nostalgia overwhelming. The emotional weight of personal tragedy may feel burdensome at times, and the film occasionally wears its emotions openly, risking lapses into sentimentality.
Given the film’s rich character development and nuanced storytelling, it’s advisable to avoid restroom breaks to fully immerse yourself in the unfolding journey of the misfit trio at Barton Academy.
Watch or Not?
For those who enjoy character-driven dramas infused with nostalgia, “The Holdovers” proves to be a captivating watch. However, if your preference leans towards more contemporary storytelling with less emphasis on historical aesthetics, this might not align with your taste.
The Holdovers Movie Review: Script analysis
“The Holdovers” script, crafted by David Hemingson, is a masterful blend of nostalgia, sharp comedy, and poignant storytelling. It intricately weaves the bittersweet narrative of three distinct characters—Professor Paul Hunham, Angus Tully, and Mary Lamb—stranded during the 1970 holidays at a New England prep school. The script’s strength lies in its ability to transcend stereotypes, allowing characters to evolve with depth and authenticity. Hemingson’s dialogue strikes a delicate balance, seamlessly integrating Alexander Payne’s dual mission of authentically recreating the 1970s while adopting its visual aesthetics. The result is a dynamic and engaging narrative that explores human connection, personal tragedy, and the timeless desire for what once was, making “The Holdovers” a resonant and magical cinematic experience.
The Holdovers Movie Review: Star Performance
Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of Professor Paul Hunham in “The Holdovers” is a masterclass in character depth and nuance. Known for his acerbic roles, Giamatti transcends the curmudgeonly archetype, bringing a remarkable balance of humor, vulnerability, and unpredictability to the character. Giamatti navigates the emotional complexities of Hunham’s journey with finesse, portraying a rumpled sad sack with only one functioning eye in a performance akin to performing a long program on a single skate. His scenes with Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Dominic Sessa showcase Giamatti’s ability to strike a delicate balance between affection and humor, making Professor Hunham a standout character in the film’s misfit trio.
Da’Vine Joy Randolph delivers a standout performance as Mary Lamb, a grieving mother with layers of authenticity and emotional depth. Randolph skillfully navigates between abrasiveness, delicacy, brightness, and various shades of saltiness, creating a vivid and compelling portrayal. Mary’s expressive mouth and poignant moments, such as playing “When Winter Comes” during the administrator’s party, showcase Randolph’s ability to bring authenticity and emotional richness to the character. Her role in “The Holdovers” marks a remarkable achievement in Randolph’s career, adding a layer of depth and sincerity to the film’s exploration of human connection and nostalgia.
The Holdovers Movie Review: Direction & Music
Alexander Payne’s direction in “The Holdovers” is a masterful orchestration of mood, atmosphere, and storytelling. As both the director and a contributor to the script, Payne demonstrates his expertise in portraying moody and contentious characters, a signature trait evident throughout his filmography. The film crackles with energy from the opening scenes, and Payne’s ability to blend sharp comedy, attitude, freshness, and wisdom creates a dynamic narrative that engages the audience from start to finish. Payne’s choice to craft the film through acting and characterization, rather than relying solely on technical elements, adds a unique depth to the storytelling, allowing the characters to take center stage in this bittersweet holiday tale.
In “The Holdovers,” Payne embarks on a dual mission of nostalgia, authentically recreating 1970 while deliberately adopting the visual aesthetics of the era. The meticulous attention to period details, vintage aesthetics, and the use of 35-millimeter film contribute to the film’s convincing vintage feel. Payne’s direction goes beyond mere visual representation, successfully capturing the essence of a bygone era. The film’s undulating narrative, balancing coarseness with sweetness, showcases Payne’s skill in navigating the complexities of human emotions. “The Holdovers” stands as a testament to Payne’s ability to transport audiences to another time, offering a nostalgic journey with a touch of magic and emotional finesse.
The film’s music, particularly the use of Artie Shaw’s compositions, plays a crucial role in enhancing the nostalgic atmosphere. The scene where Mary Lamb plays “When Winter Comes” during the administrator’s party is a poignant moment, highlighting the emotional depth of her character. The soundtrack, combined with Payne’s direction, contributes to the film’s ability to capture the spirit of a bygone era, making the music an integral part of the overall cinematic experience.
The Holdovers Movie Review: The Last Word
“The Holdovers” is a bittersweet addition to the holiday film repertoire, skillfully balancing nostalgia with a captivating narrative. Alexander Payne’s direction, coupled with stellar performances, creates a film that transports viewers to another time while exploring the enduring human capacity for connection. If you’re willing to embrace the nuances of character-driven storytelling and appreciate a touch of vintage cinema, “The Holdovers” offers a magical journey that resonates with the timeless desire for what once was.
The Holdovers Trailer
The Holdovers releases on 10th November, 2023.
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