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We Are Millard South

The Student Journalism Site of Millard South High School

We Are Millard South

The Student Journalism Site of Millard South High School

We Are Millard South

‘The Holdovers’ captures audience’s hearts

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If you’re looking for a fun, entertaining, and heartwarming holiday movie, Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers may be exactly what you’re looking for. Set in 1970s New England, the story follows Angus Tully, played by young newcomer Dominic Sessa, a rebellious teen studying at Barton Academy, a prestigious boarding school, and Paul Hunham, played by beloved character actor Paul Giamatti, a curmudgeonly classics professor. While the rest of the students go on vacation over Winter Break, Tully is stuck at Barton, alongside Hunham, who is forced to watch Tully as punishment for failing the son of a prominent donor. 

At first, the uptight Hunham and the mischievous Tully butt heads, as they seem to have little in common. But, over the course of the movie, the two bond as they get to know each other better. Despite being polar opposites, they develop a deep friendship, beginning when Tully breaks his arm and is forced to lie to a nurse about how it happened to prevent the school from finding out, and later, when the pair go on a “field trip” to Boston, where they ice skate, tour a museum, and learn more about each other. Tully finds out that Hunham was expelled from Harvard when his roommate falsely accused him of plagiarism, and Hunham discovers that Tully’s misbehavior is due to his strained relationship with his father, who is in a mental institution after suffering a mental breakdown. 

One of the things this film does well is convince the audience that the friendship between Hunham and Tully is genuine. Giamatti and Sessa play well off of each other, and the two characters have a lot of chemistry on screen together, both when their relationship is adversarial and when their relationship is sympathetic. The friendship between the characters seems so genuine and wholesome, and I can only assume that their real-life relationship is the same way. In the movie, Tully sees Hunham as a mentor figure, and I can envision that Sessa, a newcomer to acting, sees the experienced Giamatti in the same way. Payne truly hit a home run with his two leading men in this film.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph also shines in The Holdovers as Mary Lamb, a cook at Barton who also chooses to stay over winter break to mourn the loss of her son, Curtis, in the Vietnam War. In a supporting role, Randolph delivers an emotional performance as a mother struggling with grief after losing a child. You can sense the deep sadness felt by the character, as well as the grief for putting her son in the situation where he would need to put his life on the line to achieve his dreams, since she could not afford to pay for his college education. 

The climax of the movie does a good job of bringing the story full circle. Tully’s parents find out that he visited his father in the mental hospital without their permission, and, irate, attempt to unenroll Tully from Barton so he can enroll in a military academy. Hunham, in one final act of friendship, chooses to cover for Tully, saying the mental hospital visit was his idea. Despite knowing that he would lose his job over it, Hunham, desperate to prevent Tully from facing the same fate as Curtis Lamb in Vietnam, lies to keep Tully at Barton. 

Although the acting in this movie is excellent, it is the direction that is the most impressive. Payne, who wrote the entire screenplay himself, tells this story of a boy coming of age and an unlikely friendship in a masterful fashion, finding a way to masterfully blend comedy and drama into a cohesive whole. The story’s ending, although bittersweet, is still quite a satisfying end to the story. Payne also does an excellent job of making the film fit the time period it is set in. The scenery of 1970s-era New England is emphasized throughout the movie. You never forget when and where the movie takes place, as if the setting is a character in the story itself. Payne even chooses to do the opening credits of the film in an old-school style, further emphasizing the retro 1970s feel of the movie.

All in all, The Holdovers is one of the finest films of the year. It is well written, well shot, and evokes a strong sense of emotion. However, it is a lengthy film, and it can feel a bit dull or dry at times, so this might not be your film if you’re looking for something more action-packed. However, despite those caveats, this film shines as an artistic masterpiece, with its stellar acting performances, especially those of Giamatti and Sessa, and its magnificently woven storyline that blends together all of the elements that make a film great. The Holdovers is a holiday film that will crawl its way into your heart and make you laugh, cry, and enjoy yourself. It is truly worth the watch.

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About the Contributor
Robert Baker III, Entertainment Editor
Robert Baker III is a senior entering his first year on the newspaper staff. In addition to newspaper, he is also involved in swimming, student council, where he serves as the interpersonal relations officer, national honors society, where he serves as vice president, principal's advisory board, and yoga club. Outside of school, he enjoys listening to music, watching TV and movies, and spending time with his friends and family. Next year, he wants to study planning, policy, and public management.
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    TheodoraFeb 3, 2024 at 10:29 pm

    I usually watch tv with one hand on the phone.
    This movie had me put my phone down and really watch the film. One of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.

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