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The Holdovers

Misanthropic teacher Paul, problem student Angust and cook Mary stay on campus over Christmas. They are forced to come together to make the holidays bearable.

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Despite all of their inadequacies, Alexander Payne has a weakness for the human species. His primarily male protagonists aren’t really all that pleasant, but by disclosing their weaknesses they become absolutely lovable. Whether it’s the pedantic pensioner Warren Smith in ABOUT SCHMIDT, the overwhelmed father in THE DESCENDANTS or the good-for-nothing son of an alcoholic father in NEBRASKA – they are all on a cathartic journey with the goal of reconciling with their miserable existence. Even though he remains a master of the tragicomedy, Payne remains an incorrigible humanist who looks for the good in his characters.

With Paul Giamatti, he has found the perfect personification of his archetype. Inconspicuously hiding behind the receding hairline and the dark circles under the eyes is nuanced character actor. He proves this anew in THE HOLDOVERS: Almost 20 years after their collaboration in SIDEWAYS, Giamatti is in front of Payne’s camera once again, and he doesn’t just give him an unfortunate mustache. He makes him the most unpopular teacher at a prestigious elite boarding school. Paul Hunham is strict, prim, bitter and a passionate whiskey drinker. He prefers to bury himself in his books. Conversely, he doesn’t like to interact with people.

When a chaperone is needed for the Christmas holidays, the choice naturally falls on Paul and so the misanthrope finds himself with a group of stranded kids who have been forgotten by their parents in the otherwise deserted property. One of them is Angus (Dominic Sessa). His mother has a new partner and doesn’t want to spend their honeymoon together with her son. When the other students find a way out, only Paul and Angus remain. By their side is the resolute cook Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). Out of necessity, they have to pull themselves together to make the holidays bearable somehow.

While doing so, they reveal hitherto unknown sides of themselves. Every one of them has a story that led them to this point. What begins as a kind of THE BREAKFAST CLUB in the 70s develops into a focused character study between a teen and his involuntary father figure. Alexander Payne’s film is reminiscent of the world of Hal Ashby (HAROLD & MAUDE): not just the setting but the aesthetic of 70s cinema, with its long opening sequence on the campus while the credits roll, THE HOLDOVER’s tone is also very similar to Ashby’s melancholy masterpieces.

Moreover, THE HOLDOVERS has one of the best female supporting characters in film history with Mary, wonderfully embodied by Da’Vine Joy Randolph (“Only Murders in the Building“). There’s a deep sadness in Mary which she covers up with her raw charm. Dominic Sessa, in his first screen role, is just as perfectly cast and exudes the insecurity of a teenager on the precipice of adulthood. THE HOLDOVERS takes its time with its characters and their stories, making it a pleasant contrast to contemporary streaming offerings.

Lars Tunçay (INDIEKINO MAGAZIN)

Translation: Elinor Lewy

Credits

USA 2023, 133 min
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Alexander Payne
Author: David Hemingson
DOP: Eigil Bryld
Montage: Kevin Tent
Music: Mark Orton
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Tate Donovan, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Carrie Preston, Gillian Vigman
Release: 25.01.2024

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Screenings

  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

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