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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Don Reviews "The Holdovers"


I have always had a hard time stating what my favorite film of all time is, but I can say Aliens and The Breakfast Club would be in my top five. Especially the latter because of how real it was to kids and teenagers at the time and still does resonate with young people today. That theme of a group of people being stuck together for an extended period of time and changing the way they see each other on a a bit of a different level is what brings us to The Holdovers.


Alexander Payne (Nebraska, Sideways) directs a cast including Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Dominic Sessa that takes place over the holiday season of 1970 at an elite all-boys preparatory school named Barton Academy in New England. Paul Hunham (Giamatti) is a history professor who is not well liked because of how hard he is on his students and his overall negative attitude. He gets roped into being the faculty member who has to watch over a handful of students who have to stay at the academy over the holiday break that cannot go home or join their families on vacation. One troublemaking student named Angus Tully (Sessa) is amongst them and ends up spending his time with Paul and the cafeteria manager in Mary Lamb (Randolph) as they explore not only each other’s issues but wind up finding deeper meaning of their own.


Giamatti and Sessa (in his cinematic debut) do a great job and have a chemistry that was very convincing here. Both of them and Randolph deserve to be recognized when award season comes along; they are THAT GOOD, and I also believe Giamatti will find himself winning at least once. Visually, The Holdovers excels as well, even with most of it taking place at the school and its campus in a way that reminded me of Dead Poets Society and even had some cool filming enhancements that sold the time that the story takes place in.


This film DOES go over two hours but did not feel that long at all. This is also one of those rare films that given its length, I cannot think of that many edits that could have been made without affecting the overall story in a negative way. I truly enjoyed how this ran so many different emotions for me as the story unfolded as well, and that is high praise for me. As I watched The Holdovers, it occurred to me that this film had the same kind of vibe as The Breakfast Club but does that type of story better than a lot of others that have tried and even added elements of the previously mentioned Dead Poets Society and even a bit of Ordinary People. I truly loved this film, and not only will I give it my coveted "full price in a theater" recommendation, I will also give my “Bomb City Promise” that it will make my Top 10 list at the end of this year.

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