The Holdovers

Alexander Payne's latest venture, The Holdovers, is a captivating departure for the acclaimed director as he delves into the realm of period drama for the first time. With a stellar cast featuring the incomparable Paul Giamatti, the vibrant Da'Vine Joy Randolph, and the promising newcomer Dominic Sessa, the film weaves a bittersweet yet heartwarming tale of relationships and everyday heroism.

Set against the backdrop of the ‘70s, the story unfolds as a quiet examination of the profound impact subtle gestures have on the lives of humans. Payne's signature touch is evident throughout as he guides the narrative through moments of melancholy and grim realities, while infusing the film with unexpected bursts of humor that delightfully catch us off guard.

"a celebration of the quiet, everyday heroism that shapes our lives"

The story is about Paul Hunham (Giamatti), an incorrigible Boston area preparatory school history teacher weathered by life's challenges, and who unknowingly embarks on a poignant quest for familial connection. As an instructor, he relishes in some kind of sadistic delight at skewering his students over grades, behavior, and slovenly scholarly comportment. In other words, he’s a miserable prick and none of his students can stand him.

Hunham’s self-loathing journey is juxtaposed against the vibrant and magnetic school cook played by Randolph, who seeks warmth and companionship in a world that often feels cold. We learn she lost her only son – a graduate of the school – in the Vietnam War.

Enter Newcomer Dominic Sessa’s Angus, a bright but troubled young student who brings youthful hope and a fresh perspective to the trio as they are all forced to navigate the intricate tapestry of human relationships. Fate has brought the three together as Hunham is tasked with overseeing the “holdovers,” students who must stay on campus for various reasons over the winter holiday break.

The film also stars Ian Dooley, Jim Kaplan, and Michael Provost as fellow student holdovers, Emmy-award winning actress Carrie Preston who works at the academy as a sweet-as-sugar administrator, but also moonlights as a waitress, and Andrew Garman as Barton Academy’s headmaster, Dr. Woodrup, who acknowledges that Hunham is a good teacher but is frustrated by the professor’s propensity to hold on to the traditions of the past, tormenting the students, and feigning ignorance of school politics.

The Holdovers is unquestionably an Alexander Payne film through and through. However, screenwriter David Hemingson deserves heaps of praise for crafting a script that beautifully details its setting and introduces uniquely defined characters. The trio of protagonists are each on a quest for family, and create a poignant exploration of the human condition. Giamatti, as always, delivers a nuanced and deeply empathetic performance, effortlessly portraying the complexities of his character's journey.The Holdovers

Da'Vine Joy Randolph brings a refreshing energy to the screen, infusing the film with warmth and vitality. Her character's quest for connection is both relatable and deeply moving, and Randolph navigates the emotional landscape with a grace that marks her as a talent to watch. You will absolutely lover her.

Newcomer Dominic Sessa makes a striking debut, holding his own alongside seasoned actors. His portrayal is both endearing and compelling, adding another layer of depth to the film's exploration of relationships and the search for belonging.

Another of the film's strengths lies in its ability to balance the weight of its themes with a genuine sense of coziness. The audience is invited to share in the characters' triumphs and heartaches, creating an immersive experience that resonates long after the credits roll.

The Holdovers stands as a celebration of the quiet, everyday heroism that shapes our lives, reminding us that sometimes the most profound connections are forged in the unlikeliest of places.

5/5 stars


The Holdovers

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Universal Pictures
Available on Blu-ray
- January 2, 2024
Screen Formats: 1.66:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Universal takes us back to the '70s in style with a wonderful little blu-ray + DVD + Digital Code Collector's Edition of its period comedy drama The Holdovers.


Shot digitally and retouched in post production, the 1.66:1 1080p transfer to blu-ray remains faithful to the theatrical presentation with slightly desaturated colors and a noticeable period film grain. While some will undoubtedly under-appreciate the look and feel of the film, it really should not be a personal preference. It's how Payne intended the film to be viewed, and the transfer carries that effect to hi-def beautifully.

While the expected sharpness and clarity of a typical 1080p presentation is de-emphasized by the added grain in the transfer, the film's richness, and details shine through. It's a beautiful film.


Certain to anger the blu-ray hi-def aficionados the film's vintage practicalities are carried over to the audio side as well. We get a DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0 track. Don't worry, it's not a bombastic film so you won't really miss the surrounds at all. And no, the lack of bass from the sub is not an issue either.

It's not mono, so there is some directionality in the fronts that matches to characters dialogue, but you won't miss anything we promise, as dialogue is always clear and crisp.


Not sure why we are calling this a Collector's Edition as that typically means we get a load of bonus material (suppose it's because we get a DVD copy?), but that's not the case here. With but a handful of deleted scenes, a cast and crew piece, and another cast and crew piece, Universal comes up short.


  • None

Special Features:

  • The Cast of The Holdovers
  • Working With Alexander
  • Deleted Scenes

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

3/5 stars

Film Details

The Holdovers

MPAA Rating: R.
133 mins
: Alexander Payne
David Hemingson
Paul Giamatti; Da'Vine Joy Randolph; Dominic Sessa
: Comedy | Drama
Discomfort and Joy.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I thought all of the Nazis had left for Argentina."
Theatrical Distributor:
Focus Features
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 10, 2023
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
January 2, 2024
Synopsis: 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.


The Holdovers