THE HOLDOVERS – A Review by John Strange

THE HOLDOVERS – A Review by John Strange

Boarding schools have a long history of taking kids from all walks of life and giving them good educations.  And occasionally helping them work through other issues, like the feeling of abandonment that some of these kids feel when they are sent away to get the young individuals out of their parent’s lives.

Holidays are especially rough on these abandoned kids.  Many are left at their schools to spend the holiday vacations without their families.  This affects not only the kids but teachers and support staff who must stay to provide for them.

It’s Christmas break at Barton Academy in the fall of 1970.  The instructor assigned to watch over the “holdovers” finds a way to get out of the odious task and get Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) to take it.  Paul went to the school as a kid and returned there to teach following his time in college.

This is a perfect role for Mr. Giamatti.  His ability to be an irascible thorn in the students’ backsides is legendary.  The kids all hate him because he shows no mercy in the classroom, or the dorm, it seems.

This story has been told before and I didn’t think that I would find this telling any different but writer David Hemingson found a way to humanize the story and give it the feel of a small group banding together and becoming family-like.

Kudos also to Dominic Sessa as angry student Angus Tully and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as cafeteria head Mary Lamb for their portrayals.  They joined Paul in giving us a great story worthy of our time and providing us with deep and interesting backstories.

One note about the time and the film.  I lived through 1970 as a fifteen-year-old but the casual way that these people chain-smoked was something I didn’t remember.  And the drinking, wow!  These folks were ALL miserable.  And the writer blended these items into characters in the film with a deft hand. 

I think this film is excellent, but it may be too quiet a film to get the awards buzz it deserves.  We will have to wait and see,


Director: Alexander Payne

Cast: Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Carrie Preston, Andrew Garman

MPAA Rating: R (for language, some drug use, and brief sexual material)

Selig Rating: 5 Stars

Runtime: 133 Min.

Release Date: 11/10/2023

Language: English

Official Site: THE HOLDOVERS Official Site

Trailer: THE HOLDOVERS Official 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.

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