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Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

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Alexander Payne’s direction in ‘The Holdovers’ provides a comforting approach to a new holiday classic

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After facing messy traffic due to Gabriel Inglesias’ 2023 comedy tour at The Save Mart Center which lead me to miss the first 10 minutes of the movie that was projected off-centered for the first half an hour, ‘The Holdovers’ continued to raise my holiday spirit and had me forget all about the small inconveniences leading up to the movie.

Taking place in 1970 New England, Paul Hunham, played by Paul Giamatti, a rigid history teacher at a prominent boarding school, is chosen to take care of troubled student Angus Tully, played by Dominic Sessa, who is unable to return to his home during the winter break because his mother and step-father abandoned him to enjoy their honeymoon.

Joining the two is Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), a cafeteria manager who is grieving the loss of her son after the Vietnam War. The three embark on a journey of both self-discovery and overcoming their fear of opening up to each other during the holiday season.

As a longtime Giamatti fan, I wasn’t surprised at being incredibly charmed by his performance and just a tad sad at how much he’s aged since ‘Sideways.’ I give kudos to the hair and makeup department.

Giamatti not only plays a hardass of a teacher, but essentially becomes him, guiding the audience with him to witness him evolve as a character overtime.

There was an instance in the film where Paul, Angus and Mary are leaving a Christmas party after Mary undergoes a panic attack.

As Angus argues with Paul about how this party was the only fun he’s had during break, Paul exclaims, “Do you think I want to be stuck babysitting with you?” Mary barks at Paul to never tell a child that he’s unwanted, leaving Paul speechless.

Along with the brilliance of David Hemingson’s writing, the quarrels between the three characters would not have as much impact without the actors’ talents. The movie would not have its charm without the chemistry between the three.

Some may argue that this genre of film has been done over and over, including ‘Rushmore’ or even ‘The Breakfast Club,’ but its seasonal charm, retro cinematography and strong casting provides a new approach to the genre.

After almost 20 years since the premiere of “Sideways,” filmmaker Alexander Payne and actor Giamatti reunite to create a story of unlikely characters lowering their boundaries and sharing an unbroken bond during the holidays.

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