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The Holdovers (R) ★★★★

By November 26, 2023November 29th, 2023Backstage Pass

“The Holdovers” is the story of an eccentric boarding school teacher, played by Paul Giamatti, who works at an elite school where each year, a teacher stays at the school during the holiday break to watch the students whose parents can’t take them home. The students are called the holdovers; Giamatti gets more than he bargained for as he forms a parental bond with a troubled student. At times, it’s more of a comedy than drama; Giamatti’s dry sense of humor rings loud and clear in the excellent award-worthy film. I screened the movie at the Telluride Film Festival in August, and director Alexander Payne introduced the film, saying it’s a part that Giamatti was meant to play as he attended the prestigious Yale University, where, at one point, Giamatti’s father was the college president.

Payne had the original idea and hired writer David Hemingson to write the screenplay. In searching for a student to portray the troubled teen, he looked at East Coast boarding schools and found Dominic Sessa, a student at one of the schools. I believe a star is born, as Sessa was believable, relatable, and utterly charming at times. The best scenes in the film are when he and Giamatti are provoking one another. I can’t imagine being on set with these two, as keeping a straight face would be nearly impossible!

I also enjoyed Da’Vine Joy Randolph as the school’s cook as she gives a heart-wrenching performance as a grieving mother who lost her son while also serving as a sounding board for Giamatti. Together, they create a wonderful holiday movie about finding a sense of family and caring in the least expected places. Look for “The Holdovers” to possibly be nominated for Best Picture during Academy Award nomination time.

Sarah Knight Adamson© November 26, 2023