Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Holdovers

Movie Name:
 The Holdovers
Year of Release: 2023
Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Carrie Preston, Brady Hepner, Ian Dolley, Jim Kaplan, Michael Provost, Andrew Garman, Naheem Garcia, Stephen Thorne, Gillian Vigman, Tate Donovan, Darby Lee-Stack
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review
Director Alexander Payne is back, following the underrated "Downsizing". This time around the narrative takes place during Christmas season in 1970, and focuses itself on the character of Paul Hunham, a history teacher at Barton Academy, a New England boarding school. During that Christmas season most students go visit their families, save for a few that have stay due to some unexpected occurrences. Paul is tasked with overseeing the students who are staying around since he and the school's headmaster clashed over the passing grade of a particular student, son of a powerful donor. Also staying around is Mary Lamb, whose son Curtis, also attended the school, but has since been killed in the Vietnam war (he enrolled in the military in order to get access to college). Most of the students get a reprieve in the shape of one of the parents who shows up in a helicopter and takes most of them for a ski trip. This occurs save for Angus Tully, whose mother is on a honeymoon trip with her new husband, can't be reached and therefore the permission for him to also go isn't attained. Paul, Angus and Mary eventually get into a rhythm, with some mishaps in-between, but also manage to attend a party from one of Paul's colleagues, where Mary has a bit of an emotional meltdown. They eventually agree to go for a field trip to Boston, where some of their story becomes more visible to each other.
Alexander Payne always manages to effectively envelop the audience on the journeys their characters take. Most of his narratives are centered around flawed central characters, who nonetheless have layers of stories that bring these same characters to life, with both sentimentality and humor. With "The Holdovers" that becomes even more apparent as we learn more about the trio of central characters, starting off with Paul and his teaching journey at Barton, where we progressively understand the reasoning for why the school has become the sole main focus of his attention, much to the disregard of his personal life, including romantic relationships and family relationships. The same goes for Angus and his rebellious spirit and Mary and her pained existence. While Peter Weir's "Dead Poets Society" was a somewhat poetic interpretation of the power of teaching and how a particular person can be a catalyst for people to further understand their purpose, "The Holdovers" is a journey in healing, with these central characters realizing what they've constantly brushed aside, all the emotional blocking they've refused to address, and how this odd pairing manages to force these situations into the light of day, and in the process, forces them to address and eventually find a way to properly place them where they belong. It's a film that is filled with interesting details and great performances from the central trio, with a particular highlight going for Paul Giamatti who is always nothing short of extraordinary. The production team is equally impeccable, including Mark Orton's score, Eigil Bryld's cinematography, Jeremy Woolsey's production design and Wendy Chuck's costume design. While this isn't necessarily the most transformative feature to come from Alexander Payne's direction, it's nonetheless a solid film worth watching.