Nobody likes teacher Paul Hunham. Not his students, not his fellow faculty, not the headmaster, who all find his pomposity and rigidity exasperating. With no family and nowhere to go over Christmas holiday in 1970, Paul remains at school to supervise students unable to journey home. After a few days, only one student holdover remains, a trouble-making 18-year-old named Angus, a good student whose bad behavior always threatens to get him expelled. Joining Paul and Angus is head cook Mary, an African American woman who caters to sons of privilege and whose own son was recently lost in Vietnam. These three very different shipwrecked people form an unlikely Christmas family sharing comic misadventures during two very snowy weeks in New England. The real journey is how they help one another understand that they are not beholden to their past-they can choose their own futures.
I didn’t know how to process this movie when leaving the theatre. How I should tackle the review of it. After sleeping on it, I gotta say, this movie is going to end up in my best movies of 2024 list even though it came out in 2023. I watched in 2024, so it counts as a 2024 movie for me.
Heartwarming, heartbreaking, inspirational ending, great acting, funny, takes place during christmastime, the 1970’s cars and music and that classic universal logo and opening with film grain everywhere. I was in love right away. This movie’s got it all for me.
The heart and soul of this movie is Paul Giamatti! He’s always great, but, here, he just disappears into the role and I’m glad he got nominated for an oscar in the best actor in a lead role category. He might also win it as far as I’m concerned. Right away, I felt sympathy for his character. I knew right away that deep down, he wasn’t such a bad, unlikeable guy as he’s portrayed. Deep down he’s a very caring person. Kind of saw a lot of myself in him. Also, something happened to him in the middle of the movie which made my heart just absolutely shatter into a million pieces. I just wanted to reach out and hug him.
Didn’t get the same feeling with Dominic Sessa’s character Angus at first. I found him very unlikeable, very unredeemable. By the end of the movie, though, he grew on me, once I saw what he was really going through. Should have been nominated here as well. I’m sure Dominic Sessa will be nominated sooner or later. He’s got a real bright and long career ahead of him.
Da’Vine Joy Randolph… Wow… Her character’s backstory is so painfully tragic. You can see so much pain behind Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s eyes in this one. She is oscar-worthy here. It’s not easy to portray that and she did it so effortlessly!
I’m glad Alexander Payne’s direction and David Hemingson’s excellent original screenplay was recognized with a nomination. Might even win in the best original screenplay category. I don’t know, I’m terrible in these predicitions. If it does win, I’ll be very happy.
If I had to talk anything negative about this movie is that all the students were terrible people and got on my nerves. Wouldn’t even include them in the movie. I would just wanna follow Dominic Sessa’s character and not introduce any other students. That also kind of slowed the movie down for me. Yes, it did bother me, but that’s not gonna stop me from giving this movie a 10/10*! 🙂
Director: Alexander Payne
Written by: David Hemingson
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Carrie Preston, Brady Hepner, Ian Dolley, Jim Kaplan, Michael Provost, Andrew Garman, Naheem Garcia, Stephen Thorne, Gillian Vigman, Tate Donovan, Darby Lee-Stack
Runtime: 133 minutes