The Holdovers

Discomfort and joy

Title refers to those students and staff at a remote boarding school who, for a variety of reasons, are not going home for the Christmas holidays in 1970. This year the title unfortunates are a cranky history teacher (Paul Giamatti, because who better?), a gifted but troubled student (Dominik Sessa) and a grieving cook (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).

Well, you don’t need to be a movie buff to know that these disparate people eventually bond. It’s how they bond that sets this wonderful film apart. Alexander Payne doesn’t do obvious or self-indulgent. His previous films include Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants and Nebraska. (He is also criminally responsible for Downsizing, so there’s that.)

It’s human scale, thought-provoking, and funny, and the immensely satisfying ending is moving and realistic. An honest, highly likeable movie.

Note: this fine film has not as yet received a release date for Japan, but as it’s getting some solid Oscar buzz (five noms as of this writing), I encourage to look for a streaming version. (113 min)