Let no one say L.A. Times critic Justin Chang isn’t a man of character. For he’s panned Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers, the almost universally praised, odd-couple prep school comedy with Paul Giamatti as a curmudgeonly ancient history professor, and newcomer Dominic Sessa as a bright malcontent student. Chang may be an outlier in this regard, but it takes balls to stand against the majority. I should know.
Chang slams The Holdovers for being insincere (“flat, phony, painfully diagrammatic”) but also, it seems, because of an incident of racial animosity between two minor characters — a snotty white kid named Teddy Kountze (Brady Hepner) and a fragile Korean student named Ye-Joon Park (Jim Kaplan).
Early on Kountze belittles Park, you see, by calling him “Mr. Moto” — apparently a trigger in more ways than one.
Chang: “In reducing Ye-Joon to such an abused prop, is The Holdovers really any better [than Kountze]? Can anyone watch a scene this callous and then be honestly moved by [Giamatti’s] speech about the injustices of American racism, classism and white privilege?”
In short The Holdovers, which is mostly set in December 1970, is guilty of a 2023 woke crime. In Chang’s head, I should add.