This past fall, filmmaker Alexander Payne graced cinemas with his first feature film in six years with The Holdovers. Set in a fictional New England college, it follows a coterie of students—led by newcomer Dominic Sessa—stuck spending their holiday break on campus while everyone else is home or away. The short straw-drawing professor stuck with chaperoning duty is Paul Giamatti’s stiff history teacher Mr. Hunham, reteaming him with Payne for the first time since 2004’s Sideways. Film Obsessive’s Paul Keelan calls the film “an instant Christmas Classic.”
The Holdovers has enjoyed a healthy box office run and is gaining awards acclaim for the upcoming Oscars. Giamatti and supporting actress Da’Vine Joy Randolph seem like shoe-ins for acting nominations. After some weeks as a digital rental, the film now arrives on DVD and Blu-ray disc on January 4th. Film Obsessive was able to get a preview copy for our “Off the Shelf” series.
DELETED SCENES AND ALTERNATE ENDING
The Holdovers Blu-ray disc collects four deleted scenes. They are presented with an opening text introduction from writer-director Alexander Payne from October 2023 which reads:
“The screenplay of The Holdovers was pretty tight, so editing required the omission of only minor scenes and parts of scenes. To anyone interested, I apologize for these meager offerings.”
No apology is necessary. The Holdovers runs a stout 133 minutes, meaning just about everything of substance made the film. Each of the four deleted scenes carry a secondary citation from Payne detailing more specifics to his reasoning, which centers mostly on momentum in a longer picture and cuts that occurred early on before the film took shape. One of those first pass cuts was “New Room” which has a shoe leather bit right before the school infirmary housing switch. Another was “Ancient History” which had two of Mr. Hunham’s colleagues chatting after his firing towards the end of the movie.
The other two deleted scenes were part of the big Boston trip which enriches most of the second half of The Holdovers. “Making a Scene” is an extra chunk at the candlepin bowling alley where Angus is breaking rules to impress girls which causes Mr. Hunham to remove him from the establishment. The other deleted scene, a wordless transition moment called “The Road Back to Barton,” was a circumstance of visual effects necessary to insert missing snow to match with the next scene that followed, something the budget wasn’t going to cover. Between the four, none of them are very long and nothing earth-shattering was shaved.
The Holdovers does contain an alternate ending which might as well be as benign as these deleted scenes. The scene is called “Mary Continues On” and it runs a minute and a half. Payne’s note about the alternate ending is as follows:
“While the screenplay had intended to leave the audience with a parting image of each of the three principals, we determined this final scene rhythmically unnecessary. The pan to the large window was designed to kick off the end credits while snow began to fall again outside, as it had at the beginning of the movie”
Despite the lovely extra time with Da’Vine Joy Randolph, this too was an easy choice to remove. The right notes were made by the final ending montage.
The short finish of the rest of the special features for The Holdovers is a pair of short featurettes, each running ten minutes. “The Cast of The Holdovers” unites the cast on set to discuss how they came to join Payne’s film. With Giamatti being the big fish of the cast, much of this piece’s running time is everyone’s big praise for him. Payne and the others are keen to note Paul’s gift with dialogue and expressive acting. In the case of his young co-stars, Payne took the unorthodox route of auditioning local drama students from the shooting locations of the film. That’s how they found Dominic Sessa for his first big screen credit after working local theater shows.
The last of the two is “Working with Alexander.” This featurette celebrates the giddiness of being around and collaborating with Alexander Payne. The on-set doc captured moments of Payne laughing during takes and enjoying his own scripted jokes. Paul Giamatti brings up his old history while some of the under-the-title collaborators like production designer Ryan Warren-Smith (Green Room) and Payne’s regular costume designer Wendy Chuck describe their work to make the director’s desired 70s aesthetic happen. The bouquets were easy to pass around and it shows.