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Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024
The Eagle

REVIEW: ‘The Holdovers’ packs a strong emotional punch

Why the film is emotionally gripping

The Holdovers” is a poignant examination of mental health and finding friendship in the most unexpected places. 

Directed by Alexander Payne and starring Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa, “The Holdovers” follows Angus (Sessa) as he is forced to stay in his elite private boarding school over the winter break with Mr. Dunham (Giamatti), a teacher known for being tough on students. Slowly, the two begin to understand each other and form a friendship. 

Although “The Holdovers” is not a film that will have viewers on the edge of their seat, it’s a beautiful story that will leave them feeling moved. One of the best parts of the film is the way it examines mental health. From Angus’ and Mr. Dunham’s struggles with depression to the grief of the head cook, Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), over the loss of her son in Vietnam, “The Holdovers” takes a deep look at the way we all struggle.

One of the most heart-wrenching scenes is when Angus tells Mr. Dunham that he is scared he will become his mentally ill father, and that he fears his mother doesn’t love him because he reminds her too much of his father. This scene gives viewers insight into Angus’ background and humanizes mental health.

Another storyline that tugs on viewer’s heart strings is the friendship Angus and Mr. Dunham develop. Despite hating each other initially, the two men slowly become close and gain an understanding. What makes this exceptional is Mr. Dunham’s growth, who argues during much of the movie that all of the boys that attend Barton Academy are pretentious and have never experienced difficulties. As Mr. Dunham slowly learns that Angus has been through a lot, his empathy for his students grows. The actors had incredible performances and the characters felt deeply real. 

Despite the excellence of the film, “The Holdovers” often feels bloated. The first 30 minutes are slow, and the film starts off with many boys being held back over Christmas break, leading the viewer to think that the film would follow all of them. For a film that has such a simple, straightforward plot, it felt like too much was going on that didn’t further the characters or plot. 

One flaw of the film is its awkward humor, and for a comedy-drama film, there isn’t a lot of comedy. The film leans heavily into its drama aspect and definitely pulls on viewers’ emotions, but the comedic timing just felt off. For a movie that features a teenage protagonist, the humor feels too “adult” and the writing for the jokes appears weak. 

Despite its small flaws, “The Holdovers” is a compelling exploration of friendship and trauma. The depiction of mental health is heartfelt and the friendship that develops between the two men is moving. It’s not perfect, but it packs a strong emotional punch and will leave audience members feeling good after it. Sincere almost to a fault, “The Holdovers” is a reminder of the feel-good power of cinema. 

“The Holdovers” is in theaters now.

Edited by Bailey Hobbs, Patricia McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Charlie Mennuti. 

 Hosts Sara Winick and Sydney Hsu introduce themselves and talk about their favorite TV shows. This episode includes fun facts, recommendations and personal connections. 

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