Cinema Review: The Holdovers

Posted 6 months ago in Cinema Reviews


Alexander Payne returns to form with this endearing tale about a curmudgeonly instructor Paul Hunham (Giametti) at St Bartons, a New England prep school, who is landed with the task of looking after a handful of students stuck on campus during Christmas break in 1970. What plays out is a journey of self-discovery in a bond forged between Hunham, Angus Tully (Senna) a smart but troubled troublemaker, and Mary Lamb (Joy Randolph) the school’s head cook who just lost a son in the Vietnam War.

The pairing of Payne and Giametti, which was last on screen in wine country road trip  Sideways, is delightful. Giametti plays the disgruntled academic in his heap of rumpled corduroy pitch perfectly. A teacher of ancient civilizations when told of his fate over the holidays, he casually drops some Cicero, Non nobis solum nati sumus (“Not for ourselves alone are we born”).

He has a world-weary take on life laced with pompous and witty repartee thanks to a whipsmart script by David Hemingson. He views the boys as ‘reprobates’ and ‘troglodytes’. “I can’t fail this,” declares one of his students. “Don’t sell yourself short, Mr. Kountze. I truly believe that you can,” he snarks back.

What we bear witness to is characters revealing themselves to each other, the thaw of personality traits on the road to redemption. It rocks the 70s in every nook and cranny of its delivery from ersatz logos for the film distributors down to street signage and gradations of light.

Reminiscent of Dead Poet’s Society, there’s nothing particularly radical about The Holdovers or the message which unfolds as the layers are unpeeled. It’s a quality crowd-pleaser anchored by fine central performances.

The promise of spring is evident.

Words: Michael McDermott

The Holdovers

Director: Alexander Payne

Talent: Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, Da’Vine Joy Randolph

Release Date: January 19


The key to the city. Straight to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter.


National Museum 2024 – English


The key to the city. Straight to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter.