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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

The Holdovers

A New Christmas Classic To Cozy Up Your Holiday  

Alexander Payne’s, The Holdovers is bound to become a new annual holiday tradition for audiences across the globe. I can’t imagine a warmer holiday season than one that includes sitting on the couch as it snows outside with a warm mug of tea or cocoa in your hands, a toasty blanket wrapped around you, and watching The Holdovers. OK even if you are in sunny Florida, this film will make you feel that you are celebrating the holiday in New England. 

Funny and heartfelt performances with a fun script, The Holdovers is a toasty warm holiday delight about unhappy, lonely, and disliked school professor Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) who opens himself up to human connection when he is obligated to look after troubled student Angus Tully (Wonderful newcomer Dominic Sessa) over Christmas Break. With the company of the witty kitchen manager Mary Lamb (Da ‘Vine Joy Randolph) who’s grieving the loss of her young son who died serving in the Vietnam War, these three people create an unexpected  Christmas to remember. 

The Holdovers takes place in December of 1970 and watching it feels as though you’ve taken a roll of film from the vault, blew dust off of it, and put it in an old-fashioned projector. At least three movies I've seen this year provide that feeling. The Holdovers, Fallen Leaves, and Eileen. Lots of films have the ambition to present themselves visually as classic or throwback Hollywood to match a specific era. It’s an admirable pursuit but it can often feel as though the filmmakers are trying too hard or that it’s simply not necessary. These three films have the good fortune of having their style go hand in hand with their substance, especially The Holdovers. 

Of course, it helps that The Holdovers is painstakingly funny. Holiday charm has its own wit and spending time with Hunham, Tully, and Lamb feels as though you're catching up with friends you only get to see once a year. The circumstances each of the characters face are not unimportant but The Holdovers works best when you go in knowing nothing. I thought having watched the trailer I had a good idea of what the film is about and while the trailer was impressive and classic, some films are just so refreshing, only the finished product can fully inform you of its value. 

Giamatti, Sessa, and Randolph are all hilarious but also shine in their tender moments. Whenever it's just the three of them, they’re the most relaxed and at ease because the world around them is spiteful, silly, and inconsiderate. None of them expected to have a holiday worth remembering. It just happens. They each have a way of forgetting that they’re good people and so they underestimate themselves and each other in saddening ways. They’ve all given up on happiness in one way or another and their company and comfort slowly bring out the warmth in them they’ve been repressing. 

Randolph especially is a true Christmas angel and she won’t let you forget it. She stares annoyed at Hunham when he gifts her and Tully with the same book. Sensing her annoyance, he hands her a good bottle of wine and she’s all smiles. Sessa’s professional acting debut is a thing of beauty. He’s so warm and observant and I can’t wait to watch him take the film industry by storm. Giamatti of course can always be relied on to walk the tightrope between comedy and drama. He’s like those theater masks where when you turn it around, its facial expression is different. He’s certainly a chameleon actor but he’s one of those performers that succeed in making you think about his characters long before you think about him. 

The empty grounds of their school serve as a platform for some good moments but needing to get away, they leave for a holiday party nearby and eventually on a trip to Boston. People who connect often are at different places in their lives and the testament of a true friendship is to allow each person to let people find themselves where they are. Change can be frightening but also liberating if you let it. The ending of The Holdovers highlights a new beginning for each of them and you know it's not goodbye. The 70s were a wild and complicated era and one can’t help but smile at all the adventures these three will find themselves in. The Holdovers is very hopeful and leaves audiences with a childlike innocence in which anything is possible. 


Not since Nancy Meyers's The Holiday have I been so charmed by a holiday film. A true treasure to be kept close to the heart for all time! 

Do yourself a favor, do not wait until next Christmas to watch it!

Vinyl00Visions. (n.d.). The holdovers film " Poster for Sale by Vinyl00Visions | Redbubble. The holdovers film Poster. Vinyl00Visions. Retrieved February 28, 2024, from

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