By: Logan Myers
The Holdovers was directed by Alexander Payne and starred Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. Some notable films from Payne’s filmography include Election (1999), Sideways (2004), and The Descendants (2011). Paul Giamatti’s character, Paul Hunham, is a grumpy middle-aged history teacher at the New England prep school Barton Academy, where he is left with the responsibility of remaining on campus to chaperone a handful of students during Christmas break. Dominic Sessa plays Angus Tully, an intelligent student but also a troublemaker, who is left behind by his family for the holidays. Da’Vine Joy Randolph plays Mary Lamb, the head cook at Barton Academy who is grieving the loss of her son who was killed in the Vietnam War.
The Holdovers is set in 1970 and it is uniquely filmed in a way that gives off the aesthetic that it was shot during that time period. Although the film appears to be shot on film because of the grainy look, it was actually shot digitally. Because of this, and because the story revolves around the snowy holiday season, this film emits a strong feeling of coziness and warmth. According to Alexander Payne, this film wasn’t intended to be a “cozy” film, from which he said he doesn’t know “whether to be complimented or insulted by it.” I think this is the beautiful thing about film as an art form because everyone perceives and interprets each film in their own unique way and how everyone has different emotions and feelings towards them.
Paul Hunham is very stuck in his ways, which causes many conflicts between him and Angus throughout. At first, they don’t get along whatsoever, but due to the isolated conditions that these characters are faced with as they are forced to live amongst one another in the confinements of campus, this causes a bond between them over time. The heart of this film comes from these kinds of character interactions and how they learn about each other’s lives. This pushes the narrative forward as each character digs deeper into their personal traits, creating a strong connection between them.
This is Paul Giamatti’s second film with Payne, his first being Sideways (2004), and given his incredible performance in this film, I could definitely see him receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Actor this year. I could also see a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s outstanding performance as well. Additionally, this was Dominic Sessa’s first acting role in a feature film, and I think he knocked it out of the park. This film has a lot of dark humor and carries a lot of heavy emotions, which I think was portrayed beautifully on screen by these amazing performances and the storytelling overall. I highly recommend this one!
My favorite quote from this film: “Every Child is an artist. The Problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso
The Holdovers is in theaters now. Go support this film and your local theater!