The Holdovers Review: A Teacher’s Complex Tale of Redemption and Humanity

The Holdovers Review: “Now playing in theaters, diverges from the typical inspirational teacher trope, and that’s precisely what makes it a refreshing watch. Paul Giamatti, portraying the beleaguered educator Paul Hunham, delivers a performance that leaves you with mixed feelings about his character. At Barton Academy in Massachusetts, Mr. Hunham seems more likely to be plotting harm to his students than guiding them toward college.

Using terms like “vulgar little Philistines,” Mr. Hunham’s descriptions of his pupils are far from endearing. Most of them have received abysmal D or F grades on their midterm exams on ancient civilizations. While he could berate his charges in Latin, he instead assigns them rigorous homework for the winter break, all while barely concealing his contempt.

The students despise him, mocking his surreptitious drinking, his wandering eye, and a peculiar skin condition that emits an unpleasant odor. Besides these overt reasons, Mr. Hunham’s stern and unyielding demeanor conceals intensely private motivations, as we discover through David Hemingson’s clever script set in 1970, a time when Barton’s privileged white students could easily avoid the Vietnam draft.

“The Holdovers” skillfully avoids sentimentality, largely thanks to the nuanced direction of Alexander Payne, known for films like “Election” and “Nebraska.” Payne previously worked with Giamatti in the acclaimed “Sideways” (2004), where the actor delivered an unforgettable portrayal as a wine connoisseur with a strong aversion to Merlot. Giamatti, as evidenced by his work in TV series like “Billions” and his Emmy-winning role in “John Adams,” never rests on the surface.

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But let me digress for a moment with a Hunham-like quip: Giamatti should have won an Academy Award for his role in “Sideways,” but regrettably, he wasn’t even nominated. The Academy should avoid repeating such foolish oversights; Giamatti is far too exceptional for their habitual neglect.

His talent shines brilliantly as Mr. Hunham is tasked with supervising troublemaker Angus Tully, portrayed by newcomer Dominic Sessa, a dynamic discovery by Payne from a private school drama club. The headmaster penalizes the unpopular teacher for failing a legacy student whose influential senator father significantly contributes to the school’s finances.

In this teacher’s version of purgatory, he must keep tabs on the unpredictable Angus, with reluctant assistance from the school’s Black cook, Mary Lamb, played by the remarkable Da’Vine Joy Randolph, known for her outstanding work as a spirited detective in “Only Murders in the Building.” She seamlessly guides you from laughter to tears, striking genuine emotional chords.

This trio of emotionally scarred misfits breaks free from their confines for a Christmas party and an unauthorized road trip to Boston, where holiday cheer collides with personal anguish. Just when you anticipate the clichés to fall into place, Payne defies expectations with an unexpectedly poignant climax.

Led by Giamatti in a career-defining role, the entire cast shines in “The Holdovers,” a film with the potential to become a new holiday classic. It’s a heartwarming cinematic gift that celebrates the imperfect nature of humanity, something we can appreciate year-round. It’s intriguing how a seemingly modest crowd-pleaser can rejuvenate your spirit with its authentic truths.

Also read: From Fierce Rivals to Lifelong Friends: Schwarzenegger and Stallone’s Remarkable Journey

Our Reader’s Queries

Is it worth watching The Holdovers?

The Holdovers Reviews – A plea for empathy, it’s a deeply emotional and comical exploration of characters. A remarkable ensemble that I’d love to spend more time with – maybe even an entire holiday season. The last 45 minutes of the movie deserve four stars.

What is The Holdovers about summary?

A movie depicting the experiences of boys at a boarding school during holidays. Highly recommended for mature audiences, with a minimum age of thirteen. The film contains frequent swearing, alcohol consumption, drug references, sexual content, and other mature themes.

Is The Holdovers appropriate for 13 year olds?

The Holdovers (2023) runs for 2 hours and 13 minutes.

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