The Holdovers - Review (London Film Festival 2023)
The Most Wonderful Time of The Year. 4 / 5
Directed by Alexander Payne.
A curmudgeonly instructor at a New England prep school is forced to remain on campus during Christmas break to babysit the handful of students with nowhere to go.
A comforting comedy that was one of the biggest surprises of the festival, The Holdovers finds solace in isolation through its three main stars.
Having to remain on the campus of a large prep school over the Christmas holidays, a disgruntled teacher - Paul Giamatti, a grieving mother - Da'Vine Joy Randolph, and troublemaker student - Dominic Sessa attempt to cohabit. As the cold winter progresses their stern external shells begin to crack as they learn more about each other, revealing their eccentricities with warmth that pours out of the screen making it the perfect winter movie that is bound to become a tradition for many.
Alexander Payne creates a distinct nostalgic style transporting audiences to the 1970s. From the production design, storytelling structure and small details in the editing and filming style, these subtle choices come together making the film feel like it was not only set but made in the time period.
Funny and empathetic, The Holdovers taps into a simplistic form of filmmaking that trusts in its writing, the strength of its characters and its performers without trying to overcomplicate or add too much which often spoils the broth. This could easily become a festive tradition and would make a welcomed Christmas rewatch if someone in the UK didn't have the smart idea to release it in mid-January. Bah humbug.