The Holdovers (2023) Movie Review – A charming and funny tale

Paul Giamatti puts in an Oscar-worthy performance

Director and actor partnerships don’t come much better than Alexander Payne and Paul Giamatti, and they reunite for The Holdovers, a wonderfully quirky story set in the early 1970s at a remote boarding school in New England during the festive season. Barton Academy is like its own character in this comedy-drama, and it represents so much of what this film is trying to say. Payne is well and truly back in form, and the supporting cast is so brilliant, but it’s Giamatti who steals the show with an Oscar-worthy performance. 

This is Giamatti’s best role, and there’s been plenty of good ones throughout his illustrious career. Just like Sideways way back in 2004, Payne knows how to get the best out of Giamatti, and he perfectly inhabits the role of Paul Hunham, a grumpy history teacher who must stay at the school over the Christmas period to look after the students who are unable to return for one reason or another. It begins like a twisted version of The Breakfast Club, as there are a few students left behind, but once all of them except one escape the constraints of Barton Academy, the real story comes to the fore. Hunham is stuck with bright but troubled student Angus and the grieving cook Mary, who has just lost her son. 

They become their own little odd family as they try to get through the festive season unscathed. It’s emotional, raw and above all, very very funny. The setting of 1970 is perfectly set up from the very start as the studio logos and rating cards are in the old style as they would’ve appeared in films during that specific time. We all know they don’t make movies like they used to, and this feels like a throwback to a better time in cinema history. At 2 hours 13 minutes long, it’s surprisingly not overlong at all, as it’s enjoyable from start to finish. It is sure to be on the list of films to watch during the festive season in years to come, if you are feeling particularly melancholy and in the mood for something different. 


Read More: The Holdovers Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 9/10

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