Parents' Guide to

The Holdovers

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Payne's 1970-set comedy has swearing, drinking, pot use.

Movie R 2023 133 minutes
The Holdovers Movie Poster: Paul Giamatti, looking frustrated, is flanked by Dominic Sessa and Da'Vine Joy Randolph, all standing behind a broken Christmas tree ornament

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 15+

Touching Story. Too much offensive language

A touching story that is often sad and sometimes funny. Very well acted with some truly lovely characters. Quite a lot of swearing, including a few instances of "Jesus Christ", "Jesus" and "Christ" which are unnecessary and offensive.
age 15+

Giamatti and Randolph light up the screen

Giamatti is Giamatting his way all over this film except for when Randolph is on camera because she steals it from Giamatti as he graciously accepts that she shines brightly throughout this film, even in grief. I identify a bit too much with an adjunct professor with precarious employment that attempts to teach students who many times resist his offerings. Paul's loneliness and isolation feels very acute and is only exceeded by his compassion for the suffering of those that are adjacent to the boarding school. Sessa's portrayal is a delight and Vigman leaves a mark as Angus' mother. The handling of mental illness and those that feel stuck in life all are carried well with what could have been a sentimental sack of sadness. But every character preservers in a way that inspires you to know what happens next.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (4 ):

The Holdovers is the most pitiful Christmas movie ever, and that's the point. There's no Santa Claus or seasonal revelry in Payne's character study of three dissimilar people forced to spend the holidays together. It intentionally lacks the joy, sparkle, and pizzazz of what we've come to expect from a "Christmas movie," with the drab 1970 aesthetic matching the characters' bitter mood.

Christmas films often deal in the joy/annoyance of family during the holidays, but Payne takes viewers in an entirely different direction in tone and spirit. Aside from Mary, who's experiencing her first Christmas without her late son, you might not have much empathy for the rest of the characters -- including the students who are stuck at school together. But, over the course of the film, the characters learn to empathize with each other, seeing one another wholly and understanding the pain and difficulty that lies beneath their aggravating behavior. The film nudges us to realize that amid present shopping, parties, travel plans, and other holiday festivities, that time of year can be particularly painful for those who are missing loved ones. Payne uses a story set in the past to show viewers why it's important to give grace to even the Grinchiest among us.

Movie Details

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