The student news site of Seneca Valley Senior High School.

Seneca Scout

The student news site of Seneca Valley Senior High School.

Seneca Scout

The student news site of Seneca Valley Senior High School.

Seneca Scout

Day 5: The Case for The Holdovers


The Holdovers is a brand-new Christmas movie that is filled with heart, humor, and unapologetic charm. In my opinion, it’s a very good movie, and an even better Christmas movie, and definitely deserves your attention and money. Here’s my (spoiler-free) review, and why you should watch The Holdovers.


The Holdovers takes place at an all-boys boarding school in New England during Christmas break in 1980. Our main character, Angus, is an angsty kid with some pretty bad parental guidance in his life. His mom is married to some jerk, and his dad is out of the picture, so it really is just him against the world. Angus actually wasn’t supposed to be holding over. His mom and stepdad were supposed to pick him up and take him on a warm, tropical vacation, but they cancelled on him so they could have the proper honeymoon that they were never able to have. So Angus is stuck at school with kids he hates or doesn’t know, the grieving manager of the cafeteria, who just lost her son in Vietnam, and a by-the-book curmudgeon of a history teacher that he simply cannot stand. Just when we thought things can’t get worse for Angus, the wealthy father of another holdover drops his helicopter down on the green and offers to take the other kids on an expenses-paid ski trip. All the kids are able to go, except for Angus, whose parents are unreachable. So, for the next 12 days, its him, Mr. Hunham, and Mary up to their own devices.


One thing I think this movie nails is the tone. Maybe it’s just because the heater in my theater was broken, but this movie makes you feel so cold. The empty halls. The snowy landscape. The dissonance between Angus, Mary, and Mr. Hunham. All their baggage and trauma. It’s all so disconnected and cold, and I think it translates very well together.


I think the writing in this movie is very well done. The character arcs feel extremely gradual and concise, it’s way better than other character transitions I’ve seen in other movies or shows. Mr. Hunham, especially, is the MVP for me. Looking at beginning to end, he goes through a very big shift, but the little moments and minutia really help transform him in a really realistic way. He starts out as such an unlikable and annoying presence in the school but becomes maybe the best character by the end. The entire time we just chip away at him and his psyche, really getting to know him and what he’s about. Angus and Mary really have an effect on him, and he’s entirely changed in what is a very satisfying and sad ending. There’s a little running bit in the movie where the kids have to ask to use the bathroom. We see it a lot at the beginning, especially with Angus, and it just comes back time and time again. There’s a moment near the end of the movie (you’ll know exactly what I mean if you watch it) where Angus doesn’t ask him. He just says, “I’m gonna use the bathroom,” and that is that. There’s not a struggle. There’s no fight. Angus’ presence has just chipped away at him, and that hard exterior is just melting away in front of our eyes.

Angus is another character who is written very well. Movies with main characters that are teenagers are very hit or miss with me. Adults really struggle with writing teens I feel, and they just miss the point of everything they’re about and why they act and talk like I do. The Holdovers is an exception for me. It very well could be because it takes place in the 80’s, and that’s when writer David Hemingson was a teenager, so he wrote from a personal place here. Angus’ rebellious impulses feel so juvenile and petty here that they can’t not be from some real place in his mind. Another scene that really shines through is when Mary convinces Mr. Hunham to take Angus to a fellow teacher’s Christmas party with her. While there, Angus meets the teacher’s niece. They bond astonishingly quick, and he feels really awkward in the presence of this cute girl. His reaction is so perfect for so many reasons. He’s a 16-year-old at an all-boys school, of course he’s going to become instantly enamored by the first girl he sees, and of course he’s going to be awkward about it. He has no experience at school, so it wouldn’t make sense for him to be a natural at charming her. Little details that just elevate the story so much.


I think the acting in this feels pretty perfect as well. Every person adds so much depth to their characters, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else in their roles. Mr. Hunham is played by the famous Paul Giamatti, and he’s great in this role. He fits the curmudgeon stick-in-the-mud role exceptionally well. Dominic Sessa plays Angus, and he nails the idiot rebel with daddy issues. Mary is good too, and so are the people with much smaller roles. The other kids that are supposed to be holding over. The girl at the party. Other teachers. They all feel very competent and comfortable with their roles here.

Final Thoughts

In a world where Christmas movies are mass-produced like phones and shoes, it’s so nice when one actually is very wonderful. That’s how to describe this movie. It’s a wonderful movie that hits on all the most important beats. I highly recommend it to each and every one of you.

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