The Holdovers (2023) Enjoyable and Paynless B

“The Holdovers,” Alexander Payne’s latest film, features three outstanding performances. However, you leave the movie feeling that there should have been more. More of what, exactly, I’m not sure, but the feeling lingers.

The Holdovers

Set during the Christmas Holiday period of 1970, screenwriter David Hemingson’s original screenplay is a shaggy-dog story about a prickly and disliked teacher at Barton Academy for Boys (Paul Giamatti) who is forced to supervise Angus (striking newcomer Dominic Sessa), an unhappy and rebellious pupil whose father is showing the first signs of mental illness and whose mother doesn’t give a damn about him until she appears towards the end of the movie, new boyfriend in tow, and an attitude that should have been checked at the door. The fabulous Da’Vine Joy Randolph joins Giamatti and Sessa as Mary, the manager of the college cafeteria who has just lost her son in Vietnam.

The Holdovers

After the box office failure of Downsizing,” Payne is, for the first time, working from a screenplay he didn’t co-write himself, which shows. Gone is the brilliant satirist of “Citizen Ruth” (1996) and “Election” (1999). In his place is a director who delivers an entertaining movie but without the biting social commentary of his masterpiece “Sideways” (2004), in which a magnificent Giamatti took us on a tour of various Santa Ynez Valley wineries with a jaded attitude and a mantra of No More Fucking Merlot. Here, Giamatti is fine as the misanthrope being cured of his misanthropy during a weekend spent with a teenage boy and a grieving African-American woman. It’s a lovely performance, but it doesn’t have the depth of his work in “Sideways.” Neither does the film.



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