Title: The Holdovers
MPA Rating: R
Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Runtime: 2 hr 13 mins
What It Is: Christmas 1970 has arrived for students and teachers of Barton Academy. Now it is time for everyone to return home to their families for this holiday. Everyone except the normally cantankerous history professor Paul Hunham (Giamatti). Stuck with him though is one young Angus Tully (Sessa) who’s mother and step-father have left him there while they vacation over Christmas. Alongside these two we have grieving mother, and cafeteria chef extraordinaire Mary Lamb (Randolph). The motley crew will now have to deal with each other and all their quirks while discovering a lot about one and other and themselves.
What We Think: Another entry in why Alexander Payne is a terrific director. He’s been making absolutely phenomenal films for as long as I can remember. Here he crafts what is sure to be a new Christmas classic. This, at its core is such a true to life, human story. From Paul’s unflinching lack of understanding the Angus’ apathy toward everyone around him these are flawed characters. Characters who’s situations aren’t so different from one and other. It is those similarities that drive Payne’s wonderful narrative.
Our Grade: A, This is one of the front runners for Best Picture and I really think that Payne isn’t getting enough credit for the simple brilliance he shows behind the lens. For all the technical brilliance of Nolan’s Oppenheimer and the legacy excellence of Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon I am of the belief that Payne, as he always does shines as bright as one possibly can. He, unlike many uses the narrative situations and scripted elegance to make a film that is equal parts beautiful, fun and real. This absolutely fantastic film is currently on Peacock so there’s a reason to try out three weeks free. Watch it. Love it. Rewatch it. It’s bound to stick around longer than this critic or any other will. It will be watched with more fervor and frequency than the other 9 films it is against for the Best Picture Oscar. Mark my words!