The Holdovers (2023) Is A Heart Touching Movie

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The Holdovers (2023) is a heart-touching movie about relationships among three broken people. The story is set in a prestigious boarding school in the 1970s in the United States.

Allow us to quote the monologue from the film to give you an idea about its title and the story, “Every year at the Barton Academy, the students, the faculty, and the staff depart the campus for a two-week winter break. But there are always an unfortunate few who have nowhere to go for the holidays. They are known as The Holdovers.”

Synopsis [official] of The Holdovers (2023) Movie

From acclaimed director Alexander Payne, this film follows a curmudgeonly instructor Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) at a New England prep school who is forced to remain on campus during Christmas break to babysit the handful of students with nowhere to go. Eventually, he forms an unlikely bond with one of them — a damaged, brainy troublemaker Angus (newcomer Dominic Sessa) — and with the school’s head cook, who has just lost a son in Vietnam Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).

Ratings of The Holdovers (2023) Movie

Rating: 4 out of 5.
FM Rating 4.15/5
FM Short CommentThe splendid team of writer David Hemingson and director Alexander Payne have created a fun and soothing film. And its superb actors – Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Dominic Sessa have given superlative acting performances. It is one of the best Hollywood films that we watched in 2023.
FM Rating – The Holdovers (2023) Film

Spoiler Free Review of The Holdovers (2023) Movie

The introduction

In the blast from the past film, we visit the campus of the boarding school during the Christmas and New Year festivity break during the winter of the 1970s.

In that school, we also get to meet these amazing actors (characters) – Paul Giamatti (Paul Hunham), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Mary Lamb) and Dominic Sessa (Angus). Each one of these three characters is sad and broken in the film. Yet, they were forced by unforeseen circumstances to spend time with each other. They began by hating and resenting each other. But, as time passes, they get to know and understand each other. The growth in their character arc in this film is beautifully portrayed. No wonder, it is a heartwarming film.

Focus:- We last saw Da'Vine Joy Randolph in the Only Murders in the Building (S3/2023) Series, where she played the exasperated police detective with her personal style in a funny manner. 

The [official] basic storyline of the film

In this film, nobody likes teacher Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) — not his students, not his fellow faculty, not the headmaster, who all find his pomposity and rigidity exasperating. With no family and nowhere to go over the Christmas holiday in 1970, Paul remains at school to supervise students unable to journey home.

After a few days, only one student holdover remains — a trouble-making 18-year-old named Angus (Dominic Sessa), a good student whose bad behaviour always threatens to get him expelled. Joining Paul and Angus is the head cook Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) — an African American woman who caters to sons of privilege and whose own son was recently lost in Vietnam.

Focus:- Many of the scenes were filmed at Fairhaven High School in Fairhaven, Massachusetts in February 2022 during the schools February break. At this time, the area received a snow storm to the delight of the film crew since many of the scenes took place during a snowstorm. They took full advantage of the weather and the snow you see in the film was from an actual snowstorm. And this mafe for a perefect Chritmas season in the USA. {Info. source: IMDb}

These three very different shipwrecked people form an unlikely Christmas family sharing comic misadventures during two very snowy weeks in New England.

The real journey is how they help one another understand that they are not beholden to their past and they can choose their futures.

What did we love in this film?

The script of this film is smart, funny, insightful, and compassionate. And we loved its script by the writer David Hemingson. Also, it has top-class direction by the director Alexander Payne. He explores the behaviour and emotional growth of the main characters during the film. It is an ode to those simpler times when all those hi-tech. gadgets did not exist in our lives. That allowed more human interactions among people and greater empathy, perhaps.

Focus:- Alexander Payne conceived the concept after watching the Merlusse (1935) French Film. Instead of writing the screenplay himself, he reached out to David Hemingson, who wrote an unsold TV pilot about a New England boarding school, and asked if he would pen the script. Hemingson based his screenplay on his experiences as a student at Watkinson School, a boarding school in Hartford, as well as on his relationship with his uncle when he was a child. {Info. source: IMDb}

We liked the throwback feel to the 1970s that this movie diligently created. The snow and winter accentuated the feeling the loneliness and cinematography perfectly captured it. We loved this beautifully shot and narrated bittersweet movie. The authentic feelings of the characters touched our hearts in this complex and layered script. Its heartful content made us feel good. Then there was a good dose of wit to keep us smiling and laughing.

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What else can we say about the sensitive and empathy-filled acting by its award-winning actors – Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Dominic Sessa? They all moved us.

Focus:- Dominic Sessa's on-screen debut. Sessa had only acted on stage in plays at his alma mater, Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts, before acting in this movie. {Info. source: IMDb}

We also loved their hilarious interactions in it. They stole our hearts not only with their funny banters but also in their deeply emotional scenes, involving pain, grief and humanity. Not surprisingly, all of these actors – Paul, Da’Vine Joy and Dominic are busy picking one award after another in this award season.

Focus:- Da'Vine Joy Randolph, a non-smoker, found that smoking fake cigarettes looked unrealistic. Randolph opted to smoke real cigarettes onscreen for the role, while being very sensitive to not becoming addicted to nicotine. She decided on American Spirit as the brand that she disliked the most and could quit easily after filming wrapped. {Info. source: IMDb}

However, the fact remains that its entire team – writer, director, actors, and ensemble cast have done a tremendous job in this film. You can check the details of the awards below.

The conclusion

In this thought-provoking dramedy film, three completely broken people come together during the Christmas and New Year holidays period. They are dealing with a lot of personal grief, tragedies, trials and tribulations. So, when they were far away from their friends and family, they discovered each other’s company during that lonely vacation period during the festivities. Mind you, these three are not perfect, they are humans. They grow with each other – mentally and emotionally. And this is what makes this a very good entertaining film.

Focus:- Even though the movie features a heavy film look reminiscent of the 1970s, it was entirely shot digitally on the ARRI Alexa Mini. All the hallmarks of celluloid film, like the film grain, halation, dirt, and gate weave, were added in post-production. {Info. source: IMDb}

Poster of The Holdovers (2023) Movie

The Holdovers (2023) Movie Poster
The Holdovers (2023) Film Poster

Key Details about The Holdovers (2023) Movie

GenreComedy, Drama
Original languageEnglish (USA)
Age-restrictionsR (18+)
ReleasedNovember, 2023
Duration2 hours 13 minutes
WriterDavid Hemingson
DirectorAlexander Payne
CastPaul Giamatti (Paul Hunham), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Mary Lamb), Dominic Sessa (Angus Tully), Carrie Preston (Lydia Crane), etc.
DistributorsFocus Features
TaglinesDiscomfort And Joy.
They’re all alone in this together.
About – The Holdovers (2023) Film

Trailer of The Holdovers (2023) Movie

Official Trailer – of The Holdovers (2023) Film – Focus Features | YouTube
FOCUS:- The trailer has the words Copyright MCMLXXI which is 1971 in Roman numerals at 2:26 minute mark. This is normally the date the film is produced but not in this case.

Awards won by The Holdovers (2023) Movie

Please note, this is not an exhaustive list of awards won. It is a selective list as of date.

Awards NamesAwards Winners
Critics Choice Awards 2024Da’Vine Joy Randolph – Winner – Best Supporting Actress
Dominic Sessa – Winner – Best Young Actor/Actress
Paul Giamatti – Winner – Best Actor
Golden Globes, USA 2024 Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy – Paul Giamatti
Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture – Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Screen Actors Guild Awards 2024Nominee – Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role – Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Nominee – Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role – Paul Giamatti
AFI Awards, USA 2024AFI Award – Winner – Movie of the Year
Nevada Film Critics Society 2023NFCS Award – Winner – Best Original Screenplay – David Hemingson
Montclair Film Festival (MFF) 2023Audience Award – Winner – Fiction Feature – Alexander Payne
Awards – The Holdovers (2023) Film
Academy Awards, USA 2024 { Updated Article}

1. Mark Johnson - Best Motion Picture of the Year - Nominee Oscar
2. Paul Giamatti - Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role - Nominee Oscar
3. Da'Vine Joy Randolph - Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role - Nominee Oscar

4. David Hemingson - Best Original Screenplay - Nominee Oscar
5. Kevin Tent - Best Achievement in Film Editing - Nominee Oscar

Featured Image and Poster of The Holdovers (2023) Film | Pics. Credit: Focus Features.

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