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Review - The Holdovers on Prime

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This past weekend, we hit the jackpot in selecting The Holdovers to watch. We’re Prime subscribers so it was free for us, but if you’re not, you can rent it on Prime.

I chose that movie because it starred Paul Giamatti, one of my favorite actors.

The Holdovers, 2023 American comedy-drama film, set in 1970 at Christmas, was directed by Alexander Payne and written by David Hemingson.

Starring the amazing Paul Giamatti as Paul Hunham, a classics teacher at a New England boarding school, hated by his students and faculty, who is forced to chaperone the  students who have nowhere to go on Christmas break.

A heartbreaking yet triumphant performance by Da’Vine Joy Randolph, the school’s cafeteria manager, Mary, is as compelling as Giamatti’s realistic portrayal.
Dominic Sessa plays Angus, the obnoxious student also hated by his peers and teachers, who’s forced to stay on the campus while his mother and wealthy stepfather vacation together.
Paul Hunham is a cranky, obnoxious instructor at a New England prep school who lives a narrow existence with no home other than the school, no friends, no family, and apparently no relationships. He appears to have lost any joy he may have found in teaching although he retains his love of subject matter he teaches.
Cast as the adult forced to be responsible for those who remain on campus during Christmas break, he begins to understand that Angus, the smart but obnoxious troublemaker left in his care, is more like him than he’d ever have guessed.

Together with Mary, the school’s caferteria manager whose son was recently killed in the Vietnam War, Hunham undergoes a transformation even as he effects a transformation in Angus.

The film plumbs emotional depths in each character and believably shows each character rising above their respective devastating baggage to move on with their lives. The film delivers final scenes that are empowering and uplifting.
In fact, I found myself wanting to see what happens to these characters as they move forward in life. I want to know if Hunham and Angus meet again ten years down the road. If their interaction during that Christmas break allowed each to overcome their patterned behavior and find emotional fulfillment in life.

Filmed in a snowy Massachusetts winter, The Holdovers premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in August 2023 and was released in the U. S. in October of that year. 

Reviews were as positive as this one I’m writing, and this “small” film with a $13M budget grossed over $44M worldwide. In fact, the move was listed as 1 of the top 10 films of 2023 by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute. 

The movie won 2 awards at the Golden Globe Awards (Giamatti for Best Actor and Randolph for Best Supporting Actress). Also nominated for the same at the British Academy Film Awards where Randolph also won.

The movie captured 5 Academy Award nominations including Best PictureBest Actor for Giamatti, and Best Supporting Actress for Randolph who went on to win. She totally deserved the award, but I think Giamatti also should have won the Oscar.
If you’re looking for a movie with “real” people dealing with real-world problems, not movies with super heroes and unbelievable action flicks, watch The Holdovers. It’s funny, emotional, thought-provoking, and uplifting.


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Joan Reeves aka SlingWords: The Word Slinging Adventures of Joan Reeves


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