The end of the year is always filled with excitement and joy. Little children waiting to get presents, parties, and family vacations. For school-age kids, it's a chance to take a break from learning and for those at boarding school, it's an opportunity to go home for a few weeks. However, there seems to always be one teacher left behind to supervise "the holdovers" - those students who, for whatever reason, can't go home over the holiday break. In director Alexander Payne's (Sideways) latest film, The Holdovers, actor Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man) plays THAT teacher stuck to "babysit" the students at the boarding school where he works.
Paul Dunham (Giamatti) had planned to spend a quiet holiday at home since it wasn't his turn to supervise the holdovers. However, when his coworker suddenly had an emergency, Paul was forced to take his place supervising half a dozen students for fourteen days. When six turn into one, Paul finds himself with student Angus Tully (newcomer Dominic Tessa) and Kitchen Manager, Mary Lamb (Da'Vine Joy Randolph; Dolomite is My Name). Over the next two weeks, each learns a valuable lesson in compassion, discipline, and friendship.
Giamatti teams up with Payne to once again create an Oscar-worthy film. He is extremely adept in portraying the embittered adult with a sharp wit and even sharper tongue, who had been hardened by past experiences. Sessa, acting alongside the veteran thespian, Giamatti, does a solid job. Randolph, conversely is a standout among a talented cast. She demands and earns attention in every scene she is in and makes Mary a memorable character long after the film is over. The rest of the cast is merely window dressing for Giamatti, Sessa, and Randolph.
Payne certainly knows how to get the best out of his actors, especially Giamatti and he does so effortlessly, Giamatti comes across as snarky, yet touchy and Sessa portrays Angus as intelligent and sensitive. Randolph's Mary is perceptive, motherly, and feisty all at once. Payne also offers a range of angles from close-ups to wide-famed, outdoor shots to remind the viewer where this story takes place and the loneliness that permeates the story.
With wide, establishing, outdoor shots the 1080p resolution is fine for the film and since the color palette is mostly muted, the picture quality is very good. It remains to be seen if there will be a 4K version but, if there is, it will be interesting to compare the picture quality between the two formats. Black hues are deep and true and skin tones are natural.
The audio is a little unusual since it is DTS-HD Master audio 3.0, as opposed to 5.1, 7.1, or Atmos options. The audio is fine but it is rather curious why Payne chose it. The most crowded scenes do well in 3.0 but some of the more intimate moments could have used a little more depth of ambient sound which might have been better.
The extras are the worst part of the combo pack. There are only 3 extras for a total of about 30 minutes, which doesn't offer much in the way of details or information regarding the story, actors, director, or technique. They include: The Cast of the Holdovers, Working with Alexander, and Deleted Scenes. Perhaps a 4K release, later on, will offer more supplemental material but who knows?
The Holdovers has a Dead Poets Society vibe throughout the film but is neither quite as funny nor as poignant as its predecessor. Regardless, it is a well-made film that has a message to deliver and does it clearly and concisely. It will most likely be nominated for some Oscars making it a worthwhile addition to any home entertainment collection.