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‘The Holdovers’ review: we’re all alone, together

Alexander Payne is a particularly interesting director. I’m generally of the belief that art is inherently iterative, and there literally isn’t a way to ‘make movies like they used to’ because you can’t uninform yourself of all of the progression in filmmaking in the intervening years. And yet there Payne is, making movies as if he lives in a time capsule from the 70s. Making movies that look, and more importantly feel, like they had been ripped straight from that decade.

Paul Hunnum (Paul Giamatti) begins the movie quoting Cicero to his class: “Non nobis solum nati sumus”. “Not for ourselves alone are we born”. And you don’t have to be sitting in a desk to know it will be on the final test of the movie. The setup initially suggests that it’s going to be a Breakfast Club sort of situation where a group of rapscallions slowly learn about life and themselves, but as a wealthy parent steps in to whisk away all but Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) we find the real holdovers: the ones that can’t be saved even by extreme wealth.

The movie doesn’t truly get going until the group adds Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and starts to sketch in the world outside the school. And as only a Christmas movie made by Payne can do, each person gets to unwrap their hurt and sadness and start the process of healing.

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