The Student News Site of Ithaca College

The Ithacan

The Student News Site of Ithaca College

The Ithacan

The Student News Site of Ithaca College

The Ithacan

Support Us
$950
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

‘The Holdovers’ is a warm and kind-spirited movie for the holidays

From+left%2C+DaVine+Joy+Randolph+%28Mary+Lamb%29%2C+Paul+Giamatti+%28Paul+Hunham%29+and+Dominic+Sessa+%28Angus%29+in+Alexander+Paynes+new+film%2C+The+Holdovers.
Universal Pictures/The Ithacan
From left, Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Mary Lamb), Paul Giamatti (Paul Hunham) and Dominic Sessa (Angus) in Alexander Payne’s new film, “The Holdovers.”

Paula hamThe Christmas spirit shines through in the touching, heartfelt movie “The Holdovers.” Directed by Alexander Payne, the film tells a tale of three lonely individuals coming unexpectedly together during the holidays. The companionship that the audience is able to see bloom across the film’s 133-minute runtime can best be described by one word — kind. 

The movie starts with students and staff preparing to leave Barton Academy prep school for their two week holiday break. However, a few people, including the cranky teacher Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti), the angsty outcast teen Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) and the inmourning lunch lady Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) are stuck on campus because of undesired circumstances. Although Hunham  and Tully at first clash over their moodiness and conflicting idiosyncrasies, with the assistance from the kindhearted lunch lady and by the trio’s secret desire not to feel lonely during the holidays, the duo develop a father-son type relationship over the course of the movie.

The plot is cheesy, but it doesn’t try to pretend to be a subversive, genre-twisting film. It’s a feel-good holiday, 1970s centric comedy-drama and the writers and directors revel in that reality. The values of found family, abandonment, friendship and overcoming grief in “The Holdovers perfectly sprinkle in moments of introspection for the audience and the script’s unraveling of the characters and their histories over time is brilliant. However, these moments blend smoothly with the comedy. Midway through the film, the trio attend a Christmas party. In the scene, the audience gets a 10-minute slice of the enjoyable comedy-drama which stands out as a highlight in the film. 

Giamatti, Sessa and Randolph were all effective in delivering chaotic moments of comedic bliss along with scenes infused with heartache and tenderness. The micro-expressions that Randolph showcases subtly highlight her ongoing grief, even in moments of happiness. The triad of actors all bounce off each other exquisitely and help develop the movie’s sentimental and silly atmosphere. Even background characters and the performances their actors gave, like with the character Lydia Crane (Carrie Preston), all serve the purpose of developing the central characters more and to move along the plot. No one’s time on screen is a waste, a feat that not many movies nowadays can claim about themselves. 

The musical choices of the film were also impressive. The 70s style soft rock music that blesses the majority of the film puts audiences in a time capsule of the era. The film also brings back songs multiple times, which subtly helps the story wrap itself up. The Barton Academy — the central location of the film — has religious affiliations, so there is worship music that takes place in the church at the start of the movie. The film features a wide range of music to represent different settings of the film. For starters, the emotive and gentleness of the choral music clashes with the classical music used to represent the rigid prep school. Finally, the more formal music is overall contrasted to the high energy moments of freedom, featuring more contemporary pieces, which help the film progress.

The film’s tender arc is further emulated by the warm, yellow-toned visuals. The sunset style shots that occur as the characters feel more at home capture what makes the holidays so special: family and friends coming together. This contrasts vastly from the cool colors of the empty school, highlighting the characters’ initial loneliness. 

The found family-oriented story, stunning performances, music selection, clever use of the 70s aesthetic and the homely visuals all blend to make the perfect holiday film. The script and visuals remind the audience what is important in life. 

“The Holdovers welcomes the audience into the key moments of tenderness and into the found family that is developed over the course of the movie. In short, the film feels like a lovingly delivered holiday card transformed into a motion picture.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Ithacan
$950
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Ithacan
$950
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Ithacan Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *