Friday, December 8, 2023

‘The Holdovers’ tells a good, but somewhat flat story

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 2 hours, 13 minutes

Every year at Barton Academy, students, faculty and 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. Curmudgeonly professor Mr. Hunham draws the task of staying with this group over the break. 

When a chance skiing trip gives four out of the five students the ability to leave campus for the break, Hunham, Tully and cafeteria manager Mary are left by themselves. How will they pass the time? Can they maintain their cool and sanity and maybe learn from each other?

“The Holdovers” stars Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dominic Sessa, Carrie Preston, Brady Hepner, Ian Dolley, Jim Kaplan, Michael Provost, Naheem Garcia, and Andrew Garman.

It’s 1970 and the students at Barton Academy are ready for their two-week winter break.

Cranky professor Paul Hunham (Giamatti) has pulled the duty of staying with four boys who are the holdovers and will not be leaving campus for the break.

Angus Tully (Sessa) is looking forward to going to Saint Kitts over the break when he receives an unexpected call from his mom that she and his stepfather will not be coming to pick him up. He is now one of the holdovers. Also staying is cafeteria manager Mary (Randolph) who recently lost her son in Vietnam.

One of the boy’s fathers arrives to take everyone skiing. Everyone is able to go except Tully, who is now stuck at the school with Hunham and Mary.

Tully is upset about this and attempts to run away. Hunham catches him, but in the process, Tully dislocates his shoulder. They go to the hospital.

Afterward, Hunham and Tully go to a diner where they run into Ms. Crane (Preston) who invites them to her Christmas party. Hunham is skeptical to go but he is talked into it.

On Christmas Eve, Hunham, Tully, Mary and Barton custodian, Danny (Garcia) attend the party. While there, Hunham and Ms. Crane have an interesting conversation.

“I used to think I could prepare them for the world, provide standards and grounding ... but the world doesn’t make sense anymore; it’s on fire” said Hunham.

Crane says if that’s true, now is when they most need someone like him.

Mary breaks down mourning the loss of her son and she, Tully and Hunham leave early.

On Christmas, Tully suggests a field trip to Boston. However, he has a secret ultimatum. He wants to visit his father who is in a psychiatric hospital. Hunham reluctantly agrees.

I don’t think you need to see this in the theater unless you are really interested in doing so. It’s long and didn’t have the holiday cheer I was looking for. It has moments of cheeriness and humor, but there are also more somber moments, like Mary mourning the loss of her son at Ms. Crane’s Christmas party, or when Tully meets his dad.

Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of this character is good; I found him to be incredibly obtuse and irritating at times; sometimes you just felt bad for him. There is a bit of language in this movie and very brief nudity. It has heartfelt moments, such as when Tully dislocates his shoulder and Hunham takes him to the hospital, or what happens at the end. Despite its length, it does tell a consistent story that doesn’t drag much. It did make me feel good at the end.

Three-and-a-quarter stars out of five.

Now playing in theaters and available to rent. <

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