School is hard enough as it is, but when you factor distance on top of it, holiday breaks quickly become a top priority. At Barton Academy, the term “holdover” was used to describe students with nowhere to go over Christmas break and had to stay on campus. The unfortunate few would soon find their situation exacerbated when a hard-nosed, old-fashioned, and widely disliked teacher was tasked with their care.
With direction from Alexander Payne, The Holdovers follows a group of students who were forced to stay on campus over Christmas break and the small cadre of staff who stayed with them. To the students’ chagrin, the teacher they end up with is Mr. Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti), a history teacher whose faith rested in his philosophical aptitude and the academy’s mission statement. One of the students, Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa), was left behind because his mom decided to have her honeymoon during that time and didn’t inform him until he called her to pick him up. So not only is he upset that he has to stay at Barton for Christmas, but he’s jaded because his mom made plans without him and never told him until the last minute. If that wasn’t tense enough, the head of the cafeteria, Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), was grieving over the death of a family member. Sounds like a cheery group before Christmas right?
Between Mary, Paul, and Angus, they were three people of varying ages just trying to get by. Each of them, going through their own unique human experiences. Loneliness, loss, and an inferiority complex are just a small helping of the battles being fought between them that gradually surface. With coarse language and creativity, the film is a must-see with great performances all-around.
The ’70s style thematic was a nice touch to the film. It really made a difference in how the movie was absorbed. That old school film aesthetic along with the cars, clothing, and Northeastern setting, came together nicely to convey a nostalgic feeling of yesteryear.
The Holdovers gets a 9 out of 10. It’s definitely a top-three performance from Paul Giamatti and you’ll definitely become a fan of Dominic Sessa. This is one of the better comedies you’ll get to see this year so definitely check this out opening weekend. Even though the film is anchored in a school, there is heavy vulgarity, drug use, and discussions of sex, so that’s why it’s rated-R.
The Holdovers will release in theaters Nov. 10.
Photo: Courtesy of Focus Features