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March 26, 2024
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Holding Over the holiday Spirit

Alexander Payne’s new movie could become a Christmas staple
“The Holdovers” Promotional image (IMDB)

Holiday movies have become a comforting cornerstone of the winter months, where cozy cinematography, soft acting and joyous scripts combine to add a dash of comfort to long, freezing nights. However, few of these movies have reached a level of technical precision and excellence due to the misnomer that good, award-winning movies can’t contain a bit of the holiday spirit.
A movie that breaks this mold is Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers.” Setting the scene, “The Holdovers” takes place in 1970, following a curmudgeonly professor, a troublesome student and the school’s head cook.
Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) teaches Ancient History at a preppy boarding school known by both the student body and the faculty alike as a mean-spirited and rigid instructor. He grades harshly, gives punishments freely and seems to be stuck in the days during which he was a student at the same highschool.
Enter Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa). Angus is a bright but loose lipped student who has a penchant for getting kicked out of schools.
While already having a tumultuous relationship, these two are forced together when Angus’ mother and step-father choose to go on vacation without him, leaving Paul to watch over him for the entirety of winter break.
Another essential and pivotal member of this story is Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), the school’s head cook who’s recently lost her son in the Vietnam War and stays at the school with Paul and Angus from afar.
With the holiday backdrop, pure shenanigans erupt in the first half of “The Holdovers.” Two of the most stubborn people to ever walk the silver screen battle it out with witty one liners and pure vulgarity, their relationship never really reaching a point of contention until the half time mark.
“The Holdovers” is considered first and foremost a comedy, which I think is incredibly misleading. “The Holdovers” feels less like a film conforming to the box comedy movies are often squeezed into but more like a movie that’s allowed to contain jokes and witty remarks while also feeling human.
Because that’s what “The Holdovers” thrives off of that most Christmas movies fail to encapsulate: humanity. Media paints the holidays as the one time of year where everyone “should” be unnaturally and unequivocally happy even if that may never be the case.
So many great Christmas movies, like “Love, Actually” and “Elf,” really only focus on how the Christmas spirit heals every wound, from love to grief. But, in reality, the Christmas season often acts like a microscope in which all of our most vulnerable emotions are brought to light due to stress and high expectations.

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