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  • Hamish Hart

The Holdovers (2024) Review

RATING: 7/10

THE idea of manipulation is generally considered to be a bad thing. Whether it is used in the pursuit of greatness, designing a script in a certain way to manipulate audience's humanistic sentiments, thereby improving the film's quality, is often viewed in negatively and downright lazy. This isn't to say Alexander Payne's latest collaboration with actor Paul Giamatti is a disgrace to the art, in fact, some would even say it's one of the best films of the last 12 months; it's just that given Payne's track record, The Holdovers is such a by-the-numbers, predictable addition to one of the industry's most abnormal filmographies.

As Christmas break approaches for a remote prep school, disgruntled teacher Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) is left with the unfortunate role of remaining on campus with troubled student Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) and grieving school cook Mary Lamb (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) over the holidays. Despite their differences and clear distain they have regarding the situation, the trio are forced to deal with each other over the Christmas break.


The Holdovers is far from revolutionary, but that certainly doesn't make the film any less enjoyable. Alexander Payne's reunion with Paul Giamatti since 2004's Sideways contains many elements similar to their wine country comedy, including the humour being genuine and to the point. The script feels feels natural and honest, and despite its manipulative tendencies, exudes a deep sense of likability amongst what are initially antagonistic personalities.


Given the two's history with each other, Paul Giamatti stands as the principal actor in Payne's tale of a saddened teacher. Passion is ever-present in Giamatti's performance, making the best of every scene he steals. His chemistry alongside film debutant Dominic Sessa is a true highlight, with the 21-year-old Sessa delivering a remarkable performance; it is a rare sight to witness a young actor grasp the nature of this business as well as Sessa has. He will be a star to keep your eye on in years to come. Joy Randolph also delivers a competent performance for the commonplace material she is given, and despite The Holdovers being a good film, the biggest thing stopping it from being great is its own self-doubt.


There is alot to enjoy from Alexander Payne's latest project, but predictability and manipulative storytelling holds back The Holdovers. Giamatti, Sessa and Joy Randolph steal the show through their teacher-student-cook dynamic, proving that the most unlikely of trios can produce the most thoughtful stories. Just don't expect anything subversive from a director that built his career from creating radically-irregular films.

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About Me

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Born in Longreach in Central West Queensland, I have undertaken a number of prominent roles across the region such as Journalist and Digital Media for The Longreach Leader, as well as appearing on critically-acclaimed radio stations ABC Western Queensland and 4LG and West FM to discuss all things film.

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