TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Alexander Payne is a director who knows how to put character front and center, hire amazing actors, and have just enough levity and plot to draw you along through the quirky people’s defining life events. The evidence is in titles like Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, and Nebraska. The Holdovers is no different, but here, working from a script by David Hemingson, the filmmaker’s going for a throwback vibe, setting the story in a 1970s New England boarding school and successfully using music, titles, and camera work to evoke that place and time.
“…, Paul has to effectively babysit Angus, a student with academic promise but serious behavioral issues.”
Paul Giamatti plays Paul Hunham, a teacher after my own heart (I’m a college professor), who insists on rigorous academic standards and ethical behavior from his students, no matter how rich or powerful their families may be. This, and his seeming lack of outside interests and body odor, make him extraordinarily unpopular with nearly everyone. The head cook at the boarding school, Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), at least tolerates him, but she’s barely getting by after the loss of her son, who was previously a student at the school.
Over the winter break, these two lonely souls are tasked with watching a handful of students whose parents won’t let them come home for the holidays for various reasons. Eventually, one of the students’ fathers takes most of them on a surprise ski trip. Now, Paul has to effectively babysit Angus (Dominic Sessa), a student with academic promise but serious behavioral issues.
"…Angus and Paul have a battle of wills, with Paul trying to inflict strict discipline and Angus rebelling and acting out."