Published On: Fri, Jan 19th, 2024

The Holdovers review – Paul Giamatti bittersweet joy is heading for Oscars glory | Films | Entertainment

The kids are all right, it’s the teachers that require disciplinary measures in Alexander Payne’s eagerly awaited return to the director’s chair.

The Holdovers arrives 20 years after the filmmaker and actor Paul Giamatti took a road trip through rolling Californian vineyards in the Oscar-winning comedy drama Sideways. Lightning strikes twice because their reunion is every bit as good, painting a vibrant portrait of scholarly angst in the vein of Dead Poets Society.

With artful precision and an occasional sentimental flourish, screenwriter David Hemingson strands Giamatti’s gruff professor in a 1970s working-class New England town blanketed by Christmastime snow with his boarding school’s head cook (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and a rebellious 17-year-old student (Dominic Sessa), who can’t travel home for the holidays.

Giamatti is magnificent as a stickler for the rules, who incurs the headmaster’s wrath for failing the son of a prominent senator. He sparks a touching partnership with newcomer Sessa in his first film role.

Joy Randolph is sensational too, barely holding back a tsunami of grief for her boy, who died in Vietnam. The emotional dam bursts on screen with two simple words: “He’s gone.” She will ride that wave to the Oscars.

Payne’s bittersweet life lesson doesn’t disappoint.


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