THE HOLDOVERS – A Review by Jenn Rohm
I am at a point in life where I find myself reflecting and remembering things from when I was younger. This has included watching older films and TV shows showing life in the 70s. It appears that I am not the only one who has been reminiscent of the time. Of course, there are things I wasn’t aware of such as how much drinking and smoking were going on.
Director Alexander Payne and writer David Hemingson take us to 1970/1971 with their new holiday film The Holdovers. From the beginning, the choice to be true to the time is obvious, with the 1963-1990 Universal logo, the 60’s version of the Focus Features logo, and a 1970s blue MPAA rating screen and credits showing during the opening montage. Cinematographer Eigil Bryld made sure to convey the time as well, using softer colors and including “dust” on the screen as well.
I want to remain as spoiler-free as possible so that when you see the movie you can get as much out of the experience as possible. Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) is a professor at Barton Academy. As a punishment, he becomes the staff member to remain behind over the Christmas holiday for the five students remaining on campus over the holiday break. Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) has chosen to be the kitchen staff to remain for her own reasons. Danny (Naheem Garcia) the groundskeeper is also around. Hunham is given the list of student names, the handbook to follow, and a set of keys with all others leaving campus.
This film has so many hidden little delights. From set design choices, costuming, wit in the dialog, and performances by the actors. The score does help guide you through the range of emotions. It doesn’t hurt to have a tissue handy for some.
Giamatti deserves all the praise that can head his way for his performance. There are so many layers to Hunham and with just tiny little touches a fully formed character is presented. Randolph holds her own and adds the tough-loving hand of Lamb, that these males need in their life. Sessa holds his own with the two Yale graduates. It isn’t easy to be at the end of being a teenager and all the angst that goes with it. Portraying the swing between knowing everything, being independent, and yet still wanting Mom is not an easy feat.
This is not a “happy, happy, joy, joy” feel-good holiday movie. It shows another side to the holidays that is rarely represented. Not everyone looks forward to the holiday, and life can disappoint us. Watching how this group navigated through their experience is time well spent.
I will add this one to my personal collection and keep it in rotation for the winter holidays. (Or maybe on a really hot summer day to trick my mind into it being colder than it really is.)
Director: Alexander Payne
Written By: David Hemingson
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dominic Sessa
MPAA Rating: R for language, cigarettes, booze, some drug use, and brief sexual material.
Genres: Comedy, Drama
Selig Rating: 5 stars
Runtime: 2h 13m
Movie Site: The Holdovers movie site
Trailer: The Holdovers trailer
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie/show, well worth the time and price.
4 Stars – Good movie/show
3 Stars – OK movie/show
2 Stars – Well there was nothing else…
1 Star – Total waste of time.