The Holdovers – TIFF 2023

The Holdovers TIFF 2023 Review Featured Image
Probably the best film from Alexandre Payne in the two decades since Sideways, credited in no small part to his reunion with Paul Giamatti, now firmly in his “About Schmidt curmudgeon” phase.

The Holdovers – TIFF 2023

Release Date: November 3, 2023
Runtime: 02:13
A cranky history teacher at a remote prep school is forced to remain on campus over the holidays with a troubled student who has no place to go.

A cantankerous professor at a boarding school is left to watch those left behind during the Christmas holidays in . Paul Hunham () is one of the longest-tenured professors at the Barton Boarding School. As punishment for his strict methods, Paul must stay behind during the 1971 Christmas holidays to look after the students who cannot go home. This includes 5-year-old Angus Tully (), whose holiday plans were cancelled at the last minute. Along with the school's cook, Mary Lamb (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), who recently lost a son in Vietnam, Paul and Angus are forced to get along with each other during the holiday break.

The Holdovers Synopsis

The Holdovers is a dramedy directed by Alexander Payne (Nebraska, Downsizing), which reunites him with star Paul Giamatti, nearly two decades after collaborating on 2004's Sideways. Giamatti plays Professor Paul Hunham, a professor at an elite boarding school who has no issues with failing students, even if they are the children of the biggest donors. This gets Paul relegated to watching over the children left over the holidays. This includes Angus Tully, a bright student who is undergoing personal issues with the loss of his father and his mother's remarriage. Initially at each other's throats, Paul and Angus bond throughout the Christmas holidays.

My Thoughts on The Holdovers

On top of featuring a long-awaited reunion with Paul Giamatti, now firmly in his “About Schmidt curmudgeon” phase, Alexander Payne produces The Holdovers in a throwback style, making it appear like the film was shot in the 1970s. This includes adding little touches, such as a retro MPAA bumper to the film's start.

For the bulk of the running time of The Holders, the film is a three-character story with Giamatti, Da'Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite Is My Name, Only Murders in the Building), and newcomer Dominic Sessa. While the growing bond between Giamatti and Sessa's characters is at the core of the plot of The Holdovers, Da'Vine Joy Randolph has her standout subplot as a mother grieving the recent loss of her son.

Undoubtedly, The Holdovers is probably the best film from Alexandre Payne in the two decades since Sideways. This can be credited in no small part to his union with Paul Giamatti. In addition, The Holdovers has all the makings of a new holiday classic to enjoy during the Christmas holidays.

Trailer for The Holdovers – TIFF 2023

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.