The Holdovers by David Hemingson & Alexander Payne [9/10]

An old-fashioned movie of modest drama but deep character immersion, The Holdovers sees a posh American boys’ school vacating for the long summer break and leaving as the only holdover a stuck, bright but volatile student in the hands of a reclusive, eccentric, unloved teacher. The two of them, and the obese black cook, squabble and then come together, and end up on a minor road trip to Boston. Paul Giamatti mesmerizes as the smelly ancient history teacher, Dominic Sessa is as riveting as the student, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph almost steals the show from those two with a deep portrayal of the grieving cook. When I label the film as old-fashioned, what I mean is that there aren’t any extreme plot devices and the character reveals are gradual, not sudden, and the overall narrative arc is a subtle one. Coupled with wonderful dialogue, a varied and perky soundtrack, and evocative snowbound cinematography, The Holdovers is a minor gem of ruminative discovery.

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