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Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers (IMDB)

In The Holdovers, a cranky history teacher at a remote prep school is forced to remain on campus over the holidays with a troubled student who has no place to go. Source: Australian Catholics.

The setting is 1970 at an elite boys boarding school, perhaps not too far from the school in Dead Poets Society. But, the boys we are to look at here have no great yen for learning, let alone poetry. Teacher Hunham (played with fascinating complexity by Golden Globe-winning Giamatti) might have shared the ideals of Robin Williams’ creative teaching but has almost given up long since.

Perhaps a better comparison with teachers in the film world might be a Goodbye Mr Chips variation.

When viewers learn that some students can’t go home for the Christmas break and that the obsequious headmaster (currying favour with financial donors) asks Hunham to be responsible for the holdovers for two weeks, we are not surprised at some of the turn of events. However, there really are some surprising events that keep us attentive, even to the end.

Hunham is a reclusive grump, with a love for ancient civilisations and the ability to quote and refer to Roman and Greek characters. The students dislike him intensely. And, it would seem, he doesn’t like himself all that much. The main student holdover is Angus, (Sessa). The surly 17-year-old has been expelled from previous schools and is now abandoned for the holidays by his mother and her new husband. 

The screenplay was written by David Hemingson who has had long experience writing for television. The Holdovers is often slick, smart, sarcastic and ironic. But, at its core, there is heart. 

Review by Fr Peter Malone MSC, Jesuit Media.

The Holdovers: Starring Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Carrie Preston. Directed by Alexander Payne. 133 minutes. Rated M (mature themes and coarse language).


The Holdovers (Australian Catholics)