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The Holdovers - A Movie Review

'The Holdovers' is funny, heartfelt, and has a sincere message.

By Marielle SabbagPublished 3 months ago 3 min read

Do we get a choice on who we spend two weeks with?

The Holdovers is a 2023 film. A cranky teacher, a troubled student, and a grieving cook remain on campus at a prep school over the holidays. As they constantly get on one another’s nerves, this time together helps them reflect.

The Holdovers bears equivalent themes that we’ve seen in films based around this premise but it’s a remarkably fresh movie. The theater experience for this movie was memorable. The Holdovers is funny, heartfelt, and has a sincere message. You never know what anybody is undergoing in life until you unexpectedly have to deal with it.

I didn’t realize how underrated an actor Paul Giamatti is until seeing his performance as the pessimistic history teacher, Paul Hunham. Paul has little sympathy for his student's woes and he’s not the most pleasant person.

His sense of humor made the whole theater belt out laughing. Everything from Giamatti’s line delivery, quirks, and subtle nuances to his character are well-achieved by Giamatti. I hope he earns rightful praise for this role.

As the un(lucky) student who stays behind, I am stunned to learn that this is Dominic Sessa’s film debut! Giamatti and Sessa worked well together in every scene, each learning that there is more to both of them. Their transitions and growth are authentic. The scene where Paul chases Angus around the school is the funniest!

The Holdovers also includes a wonderful performance by Da’Vine Joy Randolph. Randolph is a splendid comedic actress who also has marvelous dramatic talent as well. A lot of sadness occupies her character. Randolph succeeds in one emotionally challenging but realistic scene.

The Holdovers excels not only in its performances but also in its narrative structure. There’s a surprise in every scene. First, the story starts with a small ensemble of boys and not just the trio. We meet several characters throughout the story. One of the best parts of The Holdovers is that it surprises you with the characters and the story development.

Alexander Payne directed Sideways, another favorite movie of mine. He chose a more subtle approach to The Holdovers and in his technical work. One scene fades into the next before it’s finished and there are a couple of scenes that dilute sound and only use pantomiming.

In this comical film, Payne weaves a tale that not only entertains but also resonates with audiences by surprise. Reminiscent of themes in Sideways, he infuses every scene with a perfect balance of laughter and heart. Some story aspects were a bit convenient, like how the other boys leave the prep school a quarter of a way into the story.

The characters don’t stay in one setting, traveling to different locations, like a restaurant, a Christmas party, or a hospital. The entire film was shot in real locations. I was about to excitedly yell out in the theaters when the characters ate at a restaurant that is my family’s favorite!

It’s not hard to see the moral behind this story. Have you ever thought about what spending a holiday with your least favorite teacher would be like? You never know, it could be oddly satisfying. You need to get to know someone before you make assumptions. The Holdovers has similar themes to other films but puts a unique touch on the trope.

The Holdovers is a film like no other. It’s something to experience. I laughed and it made me feel happy about the connections I’ve made in my life. Go see it in theaters during the holiday season.

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About the Creator

Marielle Sabbag

Writing has been my passion since I was 11 years old. I love creating stories from fiction, poetry, fanfiction. I enjoy writing movie reviews. I would love to become a creative writing teacher and leave the world inspiring minds.

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  • Naveed 3 months ago

    Super!!! Excellent story!!!

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