The Holdovers (2023)

Rated 15
Rented on Amazon Prime
Spoiler Free

The Holdovers is overtly obsessed with looking as if it was made in the seventies, right down to including a retro British Board of Film Classification slate at the start (rated 15, since you didn’t read ask). It’s like you’re in the cinema, in the ages ago! To be honest I found that quirk slightly irksome, it had me worrying the film would be a smug, smartypants, self-aware affair.

I love Paul Giamatti, but I have to say past him and a cameo for Tate Donovan, the rest of the cast were new to me. This is Dominic Sessa’s first film though, so unless I was hanging out at the college where he was discovered, which I was not despite what the court order says, I can’t be blamed for not knowing him. Besides, he wasn't a cheerleader.

Just as subtle as The Holdovers’ demure adoration of the auld, is the opening shot of Giamatti’s uptight, repressed history bore Paul’s bathroom sink, with Preparation H handily lying half squeezed on a dirty sink. This is to let you know that he has butt bubbles and doesn’t care that he leaves Prep H out because he doesn’t ever have people back to his to worry about them seeing it. Much like the BBFC opening, it was as subtle as a digit in the dirty.

While there was a lot of love in my family and household growing up, my parents separated when I was fifteen and looking back they never really made sense as a couple. Captain Hindsight is the worst superhero, though; turning up late to dish out perspectives you now know. At the time it didn’t feel like a big deal, but Captain Hindsight is the worst superhero. It was a big deal, thanks Captain.

Parental discombobulation is a fuckery for all foals, whether those kids want to admit it or not.

The Holdovers’ strength is not in its presentation, as much as Director Alexander Payne (Sideways: class) and team want it to be. It isn’t even the structure, because the film sets up quite predictably and plays out the same- the trailer tells you everything I have. The keystone(s) are its heart, Da'Vine Joy Randolph’s Oscar winning performance as bereft cook Mary, and Dominic Sessa’s inmate Angus. The faux nuclear family bond slowly, forged in the gulag-esq adversity of a fucking giant, wealthy boarding school over Christmas*.

Like every family, the potential for explosion is omnipresent. Kids are awful and adults are just lazy kids. Some people have some good about them, some films too. We all learn things after the fact.

Bedsit it?

Have you seen Win Win? The 2011, Paul Giamatti starring, oddball, forced-family dramedy is a cracking film, with many of the same themes and many more chortles as The Holdovers. The Handovers is subtle, gentle and very good at what it does but it did wash over me and pass by afterwards even though I enjoyed it. Marginally more weight but less fun and longevity than Win Win. I would recommend seeing both. 7/10
*No helicopters for you this year you pauper!

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