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  • Writer's pictureSteve

The Holdovers (2023)

Cinebuffs Recommends

There aren't many directors I actually make time for. You know, look forward to with enough glee and relish that you just have to make sure you give them the time to tell their story, delivered as eloquently as you already know they will do.

I've felt this way about Alexander Payne since the first time I saw Sideways and have held a soft spot for him ever since. 

And just like that little slice of near perfection, the same is true of The Holdovers, a surprising Christmas classic in the making starring Payne favourite Paul Giamatti as a notoriously disliked school teacher left in charge of the titular Holdovers - those boys whose famlilies cannot or choose not to take them home from boarding school during the festive holidays.

Payne's grasp of humanity is remarkable, touching the nerves of anyone with an ear to listen and the soul to understand where he's coming from, disecting characters in such a way as to make them fully rounded, demanding formidable performances by the players he chooses to portray them. The casting is just about perfect with the aformentioned Giamatti, mournful and yet erstwhile Mary Lamb (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) and Prince of the holdovers Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa).

Rooted so completely in an authentic seventies picture window as to be unrecognisable as anything else, the story never hurries but never tires either. As I have said before about Payne, no shot is wasted and every scene has value, the sign of a true craftsman at his peak.

Highly recommended for the patient and nurturing for the soul.

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