Paul Giamatti & Alexander Payne Re-Teaming For Comedy ‘The Holdovers’

Get ready for a Sideways reunion. Director Alexander Payne is re-teaming with star Paul Giamatti for a new project almost two decades after the release of that film. This one is another comedy, titled The Holdovers. No word if anyone rants about Merlot this time.

The film is set in 1970, and will see Giamatti playing an unpopular history teacher at a Massachusetts prep school, where his students, fellow faculty members, and boss find him pompous and rigid.

Without a family of his own and nowhere to go over Christmas break, he remains at the school to keep an eye on students who are unable to go home for the holidays. After a few days, only one stranded student remains – a smart, 15-year-old troublemaker named Angus – as well as the school’s head cook, Mary, a Black woman who recently lost her own son in Vietnam.

These three very different people form an unlikely family over the Christmas break, sharing comic misadventures during two snowy weeks, and realising that none of them are beholden to their haunted pasts.

David Hemingson has penned the script, and Mark Johnson will produce. The film will be shopped at the Cannes Virtual Market this week. Sideways, even though it was released back in 2004, was a commercial hit, won an Oscar, and even managed to increase the sales of Pinot Noir significantly. Thus, The Holdovers shouldn’t have much trouble finding a buyer.

Payne reportedly got the idea for The Holdovers after watching an unknown 1930s French film. Having never attended boarding school himself, he sought out writers familiar with that experience and came across Hemingson’s writing sample for a pilot set in a prep school. Payne pitched Hemingson his idea, and they went from there.

Payne’s last film was 2017’s Downsizing, a flop that’s widely considered one of his weaker films. But he’s previously helmed acclaimed movies such as Election, Nebraska and About Schmidt, and has consistently proved he knows how to mix comedy and pathos expertly. The Holdovers sounds like it fits his style perfectly.

This wasn’t initially going to be Payne’s Downsizing follow up, as he had signed on to direct Emma Stone in Searchlight’s dark comedy thriller The Menu, but he exited the project last year and was eventually replaced by Mark Mylod. Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes were then brought on to star.

Back in 2019, it was also announced that he would direct Olivia Colman in a TV crime drama titled Landscapers, inspired by real-life events of follow convicted killers Susan and Christopher Edwards. The series is due to arrive later this year, but Payne is not involved, so must have quietly departed the show.

Fingers crossed that a Sideways reunion with Giamatti keeps Payne on board this time. Giamatti himself will next be seen in Disney’s Jungle Cruise and Netflix’s female action film Gunpowder Milkshake.

We’ll wait and see how The Holdovers turns out. It might not impact wine sales as Sideways did, but perhaps it will convince more people to attend boarding school. Even if that doesn’t happen, hopefully it proves to be a return to form for Payne.


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