‘The Holdovers’ Ushers in a New Holiday Classic

Ulises Duenas


It seems like The Holdovers has been flying under the radar, which is a shame because it’s one of the best movies of the year. Director Alexander Payne put a lot of effort into giving this movie an old, ‘80s feel and it pays huge dividends. By the end, I was sure just I saw a new holiday season classic that will endure for years.


Paul Giamatti plays Paul Hunham, an angry, burned-out teacher at a prep school in New England. When the students go home for the holidays, Paul gets stuck having to watch over a group with nowhere to go. After a while, Paul is left babysitting just one remaining student, Angus Tully, played by Dominic Sessa. The premise is simple, but not cliched and sets a great foundation for the rest of the movie



The dynamic between Paul, Angus, and Mary, a cafeteria worker, makes for a solid core that adds a lot of dry humor and heart to the script. Giamatti is the clear standout in the cast, but Dominic Sessa puts in a great performance, considering this is his first-ever film. Angus’s character is one of the few students who actually does well in Hunham’s class, yet he’s clearly bothered by something in life. Hunham as a teacher is someone who seems to have grown tired of teaching, not because he doesn’t care about what he says, but because of the unenthusiastic, rich students. Seeing his character become warmer towards Angus throughout the film is what makes it a good holiday movie.


Even though this wasn’t shot on old film, it was produced and edited in a way to replicate movies from the ‘80s and early ‘90s. The cinematography, sound design, and script make the movie feel like a forgotten classic that hasn’t been unearthed until now. The setting of New England in 1970 also contributes to that comforting, vintage tone. The Holdovers is also unique because it’s a holiday film for adults. With its R-rating and sharp script, the only thing that’s missing is a bottle of scotch bundled with the Blu-ray release.



Even though some scenes are at risk of being overly cheesy, the film does a great job of balancing cynicism and holiday cheer. Everything in the movie manages to work, and it’s a testament to the performances of the actors, the script, and the direction.


If you can find this in theaters, watch it; if you see it on Blu-ray, buy it; and if it shows on a streaming service, then grab a drink and get ready for a top-tier classic. The Holdovers has what it takes to be a timeless film that will be replayed every holiday season for years to come.


Author Bio:

Ulises Duenas is a senior writer and film critic at Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine


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