The Holdovers Parent Guide
A comedy where the jokes actually land, this is a crotchety but ultimately hopeful film.
Parent Movie Review
Boarding school: it’s prison for the children of the rich and unpleasant, with the only reprieve coming in the form of Christmas vacation. For Angus (Dominic Sessa), that vacation promises two weeks of idyllic swimming in Saint Kitts…until a last minute phone call from his mother sees him left behind with four other students. To make matters worse, the teacher responsible for supervising them is Mr. Hunham (Paul Giamatti). He’s a hard-nosed autocrat with a specialty in Ancient Civilizations and terrorizing his students, although his prickly personality has also made him profoundly unpopular with other teachers.
Mr. Hunham is determined that the boys won’t fall into lackadaisical degeneracy under his watch. Since the only other staff member onsite is food services manager Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), he expects to have free reign. But whether he believes it or not, Hunham and Angus have a lot to learn from each other this Christmas – and almost none of it has anything to do with ancient civilizations.
I’ve always been a fan of these tightly localized stories, featuring small groups of people forced into prolonged contact. As in real life, this is a recipe for conflict. Unpleasant though it may be in reality, conflict is essential for storytelling in film. Characters have to butt up against one another to illuminate both their similarities and their differences, and cramming them together over a holiday is a great place to start. The Holdovers certainly makes the most of the opportunities afforded, telling a compelling, funny, and strangely heartwarming story about the people left behind.
Set as it is in the early 1970’s, the film contains frequent depictions of smoking, but there’s also a significant amount of drinking going on, and occasional teen marijuana use. Viewers will also be met with a fair bit of cussing, and some brief sexual material. Unsurprisingly, this R-rated coming-of-age drama/comedy is geared mostly at older teens and adults.
For an older audience with a tolerance for profanity, The Holdovers is a genuinely charming film. Not only is it a rare example of a comedy that’s actually funny, it’s a drama with characters you can care about, and a story with a clear idea of where it wants to go. Despite leaning a little over-long in runtime, I don’t think I checked my watch once – a rare occurrence in this job. If you’re undeterred by the content concerns, then I hope you’ll give this movie a chance: it’s more than worth the time it takes.Directed by Alexander Payne. Starring Paul Giamatti, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Dominic Sessa. Running time: 136 minutes. Theatrical release November 10, 2023. Updated November 10, 2023
Watch the trailer for The Holdovers
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Holdovers rated R? The Holdovers is rated R by the MPAA for language, some drug use and brief sexual material.
Violence: Two teenagers are briefly seen fighting. A teenager suffers a dislocated shoulder, which is then painfully treated.
Sexual Content: There are several sexual references in dialogue, none of which are particularly explicit. There are references to and one brief depiction of a pornographic magazine, which features momentary female toplessness.
Profanity: There are 33 sexual expletives, 19 scatological curses, and frequent uses of mild profanities and terms of deity in the script.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult and teen characters are seen drinking and smoking both tobacco and marijuana.
Page last updated November 10, 2023
Related home video titles:
For that classic American boarding school experience, try films like Dead Poets Society or Scent of a Woman.