BLU-RAY DISC REVIEW:
Street Date 1/2/24;
Box Office $18.3 million;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language, some drug use and brief sexual material.
Stars Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dominic Sessa, Carrie Preston, Naheem Garcia, Andrew Garman, Gillian Vigman, Tate Donovan, Brady Hepner, Michael Provost, Ian Dolley, Jim Kaplan.
Director Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers blankets itself in the filmmaking sensibilities of the 1970s to present a bitterly comedic tale of three lonely souls who have slipped through society’s cracks and find themselves stranded together by circumstance.
Paul Giamatti, reuniting with Payne nearly two decades after the iconic success of 2004’s Sideways, stars as an overbearing teacher at a New England boarding school in 1970 who is tasked with supervising a handful of students who have nowhere else to go over the two-week winter break. With dreary snow limiting their options for recreation and forcing the group to bunk in the lone building that isn’t shut down for the winter, the stakes seem set for a classic clash of wills between Giamatti’s hard-nosed taskmaster Mr. Hunham and the students who are itching to break free of his confines.
But what starts off as The Paper Chase meets The Shining veers a bit back toward Sideways territory when four of the five students are whisked away on a ski trip by one of their wealthy fathers. Guilted into trying to provide the lone remaining student, the troubled Angus (newcomer Dominic Sessa), with a decent Christmas, they embark on a “field trip” to Boston, joined by the school’s head cook, Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), who is still grieving over the recent death of her son in Vietnam. In embracing each other as an ersatz family unit, the trio take their first steps in moving forward from their sorrowful fates.
The Holdovers is the result of a bit of creative serendipity, as Payne had wanted to do a movie about a boarding school and came upon screenwriter David Hemingson, who was pitching a TV show about the same subject. Hemingson then reworked his script for the pilot episode into the screenplay for Payne’s film.
The result is an engaging, thoughtful and amusing character study punctuated by the terrific performances of the three leads.
The home video edition of the film includes a smattering of interesting bonus materials.
The making of the film is ably covered in two featurettes — a 10-and-a-half-minute video about the cast, and the eight-and-a-half-minute “Working With Alexander.”
Also included are about seven minutes of excised content, consisting of four deleted scenes and an alternate ending. These include text introductions explaining why they were cut, and are accompanied by a written explanation from Payne, who mirthfully apologizes for the “meager offerings.”