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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: January 2nd, 2024 Movie Release Year: 2023

The Holdovers

Overview -

The Holdovers reunites Paul Giamatti and Alexander Payne for their second outing in one of the best films of recent memory. This movie checks off every box on the list to become that prized movie that only releases once every few years. The 1080p HD video looks marvelous and the unorthodox DTS-HD 3.0 audio track sounds great. The extras are a lot of fun too even if they are short. Highly Recommended!

 

From acclaimed director Alexander Payne, The Holdovers follows a curmudgeonly instructor (Paul Giamatti) at a New England prep school who is forced to remain on campus during Christmas break to babysit the handful of students with nowhere to go. Eventually he forms an unlikely bond with one of them—a damaged, brainy troublemaker (newcomer Dominic Sessa)—and with the school's head cook, who has just lost a son in Vietnam (Da'Vine Joy Randolph).

 

Special Features:

  • Alternate Ending – "Mary Continues On"
  • Deleted Scenes
    • Introduction by Alexander Payne
    • New Room
    • Making a Scene
    • The Road Back to Barton
    • Ancient History
  • The Cast of THE HOLDOVERS – Sit down with the cast of THE HOLDOVERS, including Paul Giamatti, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, and newcomer Dominic Sessa, while they discuss getting into the minds of their characters. Meet the boys of Barton and learn more about director Alexander Payne's casting process.
  • Working with Alexander – Hear the cast and crew about their on-set experience working with acclaimed director Alexander Payne.

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
133
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date:
January 2nd, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

When it comes to mind, madness sets in that Director Alexander Payne and Actor Paul Giamatti have only collaborated on two films. The first is the hilarious and at times brutal comedy Sideways and the other is the brand new, excellent feature titled The Holdovers. The former was released twenty years ago. And that special connection between director and actor captured in Sideways should be reinvested because Giamatti and Payne have again turned in an A+ thesis inside this coming-of-late-age film that mixes drama and comedy in the best ways possible. The Holdovers is one of those movies that can be watched, enjoyed, and talked about many times after multiple viewings without getting trite or rote. It's a magical experience set inside a 1970s boarding school during Christmas break where a teacher and student must learn to get along with each other while everyone else is away for the holidays. 

Payne conceived this amazing story after watching a French film from the 1930s and hired Just Shoot Me! and Kitchen Confidential writer David Hemingson to pen his first feature film script. The two teamed up and concocted a brilliant, smart, witty screenplay that echoes a lot of the sentiments of pain and comedic situations from Sideways. Giamatti again plays a High School teacher who takes his job extremely seriously much to the chagrin of his students and fellow faculty where he insults everyone with the finest of literature of a master wordsmith. The dean of the school informs Mr. Hunham (Giamatti) that he will once again be looking after the kids holding over during Christmas break to stay on campus. After a few days of five kids being held over, one of the kid's parents flies in via helicopter and takes all of the kids skiing for the duration of the break except for one kid whose parents are unreachable. Thus the story starts with Mr. Hunham and this kid Angus Tully (newcomer Dominic Sessa) to try and bond with one another during the happiest time of the year. 

It's not easy for this odd couple to hit it off, but little by little, these two find out they have more in common than not as they try and celebrate the holidays together alone in the big luxurious boarding school along with the school's cafeteria manager Mary Lamb (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) who just lost her son to the war overseas. The mix of loneliness, anger, and grief is a perfect yule-tide recipe that forces the three unlikely friendships to celebrate in peace and find their inner happiness to move onwards and upwards. Small crumbs of these three characters' backgrounds are revealed throughout the film in the best anecdotes and scenes that Hemingson and Payne have fleshed out perfectly. There's not one stale sequence or moment that doesn't belong. It's all earned with every character flaw and redeeming value naturally coming to the spotlight. 

Leave it to Giamatti though to once again earn those comedic stripes with his fantastic delivery along with his exquisite ability to showcase how much pain and loneliness he is in while holding it all in without an outburst. He revealed this in Sideways and does so again here and it's award-worthy. Da'Vine is simply phenomenal and brings that element of joy, grief, and levelheadedness to these two Neanderthals who can't seem to break the ice with one another. And the newcomer Sessa is magnificent in his first on-screen performance that is bathed in genuine emotion and wonder. The look of the film is warm, inviting, and cozy with a 70s charm that is missing in modern movies. The Holdovers is one of the best experiences to enjoy that will give smiles and heart-warming sparks to anyone who watches. Never judge a book by its cover here and please, let Payne and Giamatti make every movie together. 

 

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Holdovers grades its way to Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Code via Focus Features and Universal Pictures. The two discs are strapped inside a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve. There is an insert for a digital code inside. The artwork features the three main characters all looking disgruntled. Hopefully, there will be better artwork on a future release. 

 

Video Review

Ranking:

The Holdovers comes with a 1080p HD transfer that looks fantastic. There is no word on a 4K UHD release yet, but it's a safe bet one will be released post-Oscars. The color palette utilizes the rich brown woods inside the boarding schools with those 70s-era beige, yellow, and orange walls. Outside it is cold, grey, and white with snow which is a nice contrast from the warmth of those earth colors inside. The Christmastime joy brings in green trees and those primary-colored lights perfectly. Black levels are inky and rich and the skin tones are natural. The detail is sharp with amazing closeups that reveal facial pores, acne, pimples, and individual hairs. The textures in the sofas, wooden walls, and wool clothing look excellent as well. The film grain keeps the movie's aesthetic in the 70s without having that digitized image. This is an exquisite-looking picture that will no doubt be upgraded when the 4K is released. 

 

Audio Review

Ranking:

This release comes with a rare DTS-HD 3.0 audio track. The guess is that Payne wanted to utilize the 70s audio style and since the film is heavy on dialogue, there might not be a need for a Dolby Atmos track here. But with this 3.0 option, the boarding school's noises of kids in the classrooms, people eating in the cafeteria, and vehicles driving by all sound fantastic. Nothing is overly loud, but rather nuanced in this drama-comedy. The dialogue is clean, clear, and easy to follow along with all of the excellent language. The score and music choices bring life to the story as well. 

Special Features

Ranking:

There are about 28 minutes of extras here with some brief but great interviews with the cast and crew. Deleted scenes and an alternate ending round these bonus features out. Since this is an awards contender, we can assume that a future release will hopefully feature more extra content than this.

  • The Cast of the Holdovers (HD, 11 Mins.) - Virtually everyone in the film and Alexander Payne talks about making the movie, and working with each other, and more. 
  • Working with Alexander (HD, 9 Mins.) - The same talking heads from above come back and talk about the story and how great it is to work with Payne.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 8 Mins.) - Five deleted scenes include an alternate ending. All of these have intros by Payne discussing why they were left out. These are worth watching.

Final Thoughts

The Holdovers is a sweet slice of heaven in cinema. It's one of those films that will last forever and bring joy to all who watch it. The performances, dialogue, and visuals are simply phenomenal. The 1080p HD picture looks great and the DTS-HD 3.0 sounds very good. The bonus features might run thin, but they are worth watching. Highly Recommended!