The Holdovers

Director: Alexander Payne
Year Released: 2023
Rating: 3.5

During Winter Break at Barton Academy in Massachusetts, snarly (but erudite) classics instructor Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) is given the undesirable task of keeping watch over five students who can't travel home for the holidays (for various reasons), but once four of them manage to get permission to go on a ski trip, that leaves emotionally fragile Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) behind, and he and Paul do nothing but clash with each other.  There's something about Giamatti that brings out the best in Payne, because this is not only a superb character study (written by David Hemingson) of two societal rejects working through personal concerns (Angus' father is in a psychiatric hospital while Paul has trimethylaminuria, or "fish odor syndrome") but also speaks to issues with class and the way wealthy families hide (or ignore) their problems and find ways to blame others.  Since this takes place in the early 1970's, the Vietnam War is still going on, and Barton's head cook Mary Lamb (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) is mourning the loss of her son, who died in the conflict ... whereas his more economically privileged peers (even those with bone spurs) remained in the States.  Perhaps it's a little too morose for its own good, but in the end Hunham is the caged bird who finally gets set free: to Carthage, here he comes.