The Holdovers review, heartwarming and humorous

Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers

The Holdovers has earned nominations for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Da’Vine Joy Randolph this year. It’s a heartwarming story set in a boys’ boarding school over the Christmas holidays. The boys who can’t go home for the holidays are kept at the school and referred to as “holdovers.”

The Holdovers has a big cast, but the people that really matter are only three. Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) teaches ancient history. He’s a real curmudgeon, hated by students and faculty alike. He’s the faculty member who has to stay on campus with the holdovers and supervise them over the holiday break. We’ve seen a million of these curmudgeon with a heart of gold stories before, but this one is a top notch example of the genre.

One example of the subtle humor in this movie is Paul Giamatti’s contact lens. It gave him one wonky eye. But sometimes the contact was in his right eye, sometimes in his left. You never knew what was going on with his eyes.

Dominic Sessa in The Holdovers
The parents aren’t coming.

At first, several boys had to stay behind. One of the kid’s dads finally showed up and took them all on a skiing trip. Except for Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa). His parents couldn’t be reached to give permission for the trip. Angus was smart but rebellious. He and Paul were at each other’s throats constantly.

Da'Vine Joy Randolph in The Holdovers
Yeah, that’s probably whiskey in that coffee cup.

The final important character in the story was Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). She ran the kitchen and stayed behind to cook for the holdovers.

This was set in the 1970s. Mary’s very smart son had been able to attend the boys school but there were no scholarships for Black boys to the Ivy League colleges grads of the school normally went to. Her son joined the service thinking he could attend college on the G.I. Bill later. He was killed in Viet Nam. It was coming up on the one year anniversary of his death and Mary was grieving hard.

Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa in The Holdovers
Here’s where you have to teach your young actors how to use a rotary phone.

After director Alexander Payne had gone through the necessary emotional beats to make sure these three were the only ones stuck together for the holidays, the heart of the film unrolls.

As the three of them drop their guard and come together some funny and lovely things happen. Everyone’s life is changed by the end, and a lot of good whiskey is downed.

The Holdovers is a beautiful movie. Considering the competition, it probably won’t take home the Best Picture Oscar this year, but it’s definitely worth seeing. I watched it on Peacock, and it’s available to rent on Prime Video.

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