KSL Movie Show review: ‘The Holdovers’ is your new seasonal anthem
Nov 7, 2023, 1:40 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — For those who struggle with the unrealized joy of holiday exuberance, in this KSL Movie Show review we explore how “The Holdovers” could become your new seasonal anthem.
It is the anti-Hallmark movie that celebrates the awkward difficulties of three troubled humans during Christmas break at a prestigious prep school for boys in 1970s New England.
Right out of the gate, you’ll know you’re in for a trip into the past by the grainy placards pronouncing the film’s R rating, its studio origins, and even its narrower aspect ratio. It screams we found the reels of this film in an old steamer trunk tucked away in some professor’s attic crawl space and we’ve resurrected it just for you.
I personally felt a gleeful nostalgia wash over me as I’d just parked my parents’ Oldsmobile 442, squirming in my brown corduroy jeans and paisley shirt while catching a whiff of English Leather After Shave. Wow, what a powerful memory trigger!
So Barton Academy has shut down for the two-week holiday stint, so students and faculty can have a break from each other, except for an unfortunate few.
Irritable history teacher Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) has been tasked with the trying responsibility of watching over the handful of boys who can’t go home for Christmas or Hanukkah for various reasons, either too far or expensive to travel or family has made other plans. Ouch.
Head of the kitchen, Mary Lamb, (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) is also sticking around, still grieving the death of her son, Curtis, to the War in Vietnam, and also because someone needs to feed these kids and Mr. Hunham during the break.
While most of the remaining holdovers are whisked off to a ski resort to spend the holidays, poor Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) who can’t reach his mom for permission, is left behind with Mr. Hunham and Mary.
Here is where the fun (yes, there is plenty of humor) and misery begin, as we peel back the onion of each of these remaining characters. We already mentioned Mary’s devastating loss, but her first Christmas without her boy sends her into a deep, whiskey-flavored funk. Mr. Hunham also keeps company with his old pal Jim Beam to soothe his loneliness, while focusing on enforcing strict rules and being a professional curmudgeon.
It’s film newcomer Sessa, who has done some theater work, who brings a special mix of charm, sass, wit and intelligence to his performance that sends this Alexander Payne production to a whole new level.
KSL Movie Show on “The Holdovers”
Some are suggesting this is Payne’s “feel-good Christmas movie” which he bristles at. To him, “The Holdovers” is an in-depth character piece that just happens to be set at Christmas time. Either way, it’s some of the best work he and Giamatti have done, since nearly 20 years ago with “Sideways.”
Regardless, for me, it will go down as one of my favorite films of 2023.
“The Holdovers” comes to theaters on Nov. 10.
THE HOLDOVERS is rated R for language, some drug use and brief sexual material. Starring Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Dominic Sessa. Directed by Alexander Payne (“Nebraska” “Sideways”) – filmed at various prep schools in Massachusetts. Running time: 133 minutes.