THE HOLDOVERS – Review by Susan Granger

Set at Christmastime in 1970 at prestigious Barton Academy, a rural Massachusetts prep school, The Holdovers revolves around Paul ’Walleye’ Hunham (Paul Giamatti), the cynical, curmudgeonly classics instructor forced to supervise the unfortunate boys unable to return home for the two-week holiday break. When a rich kid’s dad arrives in his helicopter, he offers to take them all skiing – if their parents give permission. That leaves only arrogant, angry Angus Tully (newcomer Dominic Sessa) whose honeymooning mother and stepfather have abandoned him and cannot be reached. Screenwriter David Hemingson devises such distinctive, compelling backstories for each of these three lonely, sad souls that their traumatic misadventures turn out to be therapeutic, yet director Alexander Payne never succumbs to sentimentality.

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THE HOLDOVERS – Review by Diane Carson

Director Alexander Payne has demonstrated a rare skill in mining complex personalities, the façade presented to others as well as the hidden depths of that mask. In exploring identities, Payne reveals the agonizing elements, coping strategies, and positive aspects of his characters. Through all this, he maintains an affectionate, incisive approach to the human condition. The Holdovers is as profound as it is enjoyable, a world to embrace.

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THE HOLDOVERS (Middleburg FF 2023) – Review by Leslie Combemale

The Holdovers, aka Grumpy Professor has a Change of Heart (that’s not a spoiler. It’s telegraphed in the trailer) aka Sideways Part Deux is more charming, poignant and sweet than director Alexander Payne and lead Paul Giamatti have any right to be, but that’s no surprise for the duo that brought us Sideways. It may be the holiday movie you never knew you needed. None of the lead characters have family that make them feel safe and loved during the holidays. This is the story of them finding each other, as damaged and full of baggage as they all are.

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THE HOLDOVERS (TIFF 2023) – Review by Emma Badame

Filmmaker Alexander Payne’s latest offering is not particularly original in any of its elements and doesn’t attempt to break any new ground, but as it transpires, that’s not at all a bad thing. Well-acted, lovingly directed, and sharply written by David Hemingson, The Holdovers is a warm, nostalgic hug of a film that harks back to a specific and beloved era of filmmaking. Payne sets the film in the early ‘70s to allow for a showcase of his vintage favorites. From the soundtrack to the color palette, he immerses his film in everything of the era and it truly works in the film’s favor.

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A MOUTHFUL OF AIR – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Depression doesn’t play favorites. Neither does anxiety. A loving family, a creative career, and financial stability are no defense against the darkness that creeps into one’s mind, as the drama A Mouthful of Air demonstrates through one mother’s anguish. Making her feature directing debut, Amy Koppelman adapted her fictional 2003 novel of the same name, based on her own experience with clinical depression.

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JUNGLE CRUISE – Review by Martha K Baker

Erase all thoughts of Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in African Queen from your mind. Delete scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pretend you’re back at Disneyland on the Jungle Cruise because it lasts eight minutes compared to the film’s 127. The film version equals a theme park ride in fake-itude. Jungle Cruise, loud and long, is about as solid as the floating vegetation on the Amazon River.

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GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE – Review by Leslie Combemale

Gunpower Milkshake is proof that you can have five talented, compelling actors acting the hell out of themselves and it still won’t make up for a one-dimensional derivative script. I’d still crawl through teargas to see Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, and Carla Gugino in an assassin sisterhood, but it’s a real disappointment they didn’t have a script that could leverage their combined star power and thespian skill.

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, Aug. 25-31: THE CONGRESS

Opening Aug. 29, AWFJ’s Movie of the Week is The Congress, from writer-director Ari Folman and starring Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Danny Huston, Paul Giamatti, and Jon Hamm. The unusual film combines live action and animation to present a unique premise set in a world in the not-too-distant future where Wright gives a studio control over her digital likeness for use in perpetuity. Read on…

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