By Seth Chitwood | The Standard-Times | November 1, 2023
NEW BEDFORD – The Paul Giamatti movie “The Holdovers” filmed at Fairhaven High School and the Wamsutta Club, set to premiere worldwide on Nov. 10, has already started showing at theatres such as Coolidge Corner in Brookline and AMC Boston Common 19 on Tremont Street.
After a successful run at the Toronto International Film Festival, with Oscar buzz for Giamatti, locals are excited to see the SouthCoast highlighted in the upcoming movie.
“We are planning on showing the film at the [Wamsutta] club as soon as we can get it on streaming,” said Cynthia Bouchard, general manager. “We’re very excited for the release.”
Bouchard said she was there when they filmed scenes in the kitchen area. “Because it was old, it fit well with what they were looking for with how it matches Fairhaven High School’s cafeteria. I’ve seen some of the trailer and I can see some of the kitchen in it,” she added.
Bouchard said she didn’t speak with Giamatti directly, but left a signed photo for her after the shoot.
“They were so wonderful. It’s a nice thing for the club as well as the city,” Bouchard said.
What is the film about?
The film takes place in 1970, and tells the story of Paul Hunham (Giamatti), an unpopular teacher with no family to go to and nowhere else to spend the Christmas holiday. Thus, he stays at the school to supervise the students who are unable to go home.
Eventually, the only student left is 15-year-old Angus (Dominic Sessa), a student who has a tendency to land himself in trouble. Joining Paul and Angus is head cook Mary (Tony-nominee Da’Vine Joy Randolph), a Black woman whose son was recently lost in Vietnam. Together, the three explore the New England area over the course of two very snowy weeks, according to a longer description on IMDb.com.
Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com said, “The Holdovers is a consistently smart, funny movie about people who are easy to root for and like the ones we know. Its greatest accomplishment is not how easy it is to see yourself in Paul, Angus, or Mary. It’s that you will in all three.”
The New York Post said, “It’s Alexander Payne’s [Director] finest work in years” while Collider.com called it “a wonderful revelation.
Fairhaven High School students are excited to see it
“We are certainly very excited about the opening of the film,” said Andy Kulak, principal of Fairhaven High School. “It’s been over two years since we began meeting with the production crew to see if FHS would be a good site for filming… I’ve seen the trailer and it looks like it is going to be a great ‘feel good’ movie and I can’t wait to see it.”
In the trailer, released on July 17, scenes featuring the Knipe Auditorium stage and a hallway in the Fairhaven High School and the dining room at the Wamsutta Club all appear in a few quick moments featuring Giamatti and actor Sessa.
“The Fairhaven High School alumni base around the country is very excited to see our beautiful high school in this Hollywood movie. We can’t wait to see how our historic building is utilized in this film,” said Bob Foster, class of ’66 and president of the alumni association.
Foster guides tours of the high school as well as a walking tour for the Fairhaven Tourism Department.
“Other films have been shot in town over the years, with mixed reviews from both the film critics and the residents. This one seems like it’s going to be a winner. I’m personally looking forward to seeing it,” added Chris Richard, the director of tourism for Fairhaven and a graduate of Fairhaven High School (Class of ’76).
Since the movie is not going to mention the town of Fairhaven specifically, as it’s set at the fictional Barton Academy, Richard said he thought it was unlikely it would put Fairhaven on the map to anyone who doesn’t read all the fine print in the credits.
“But, the Office of Tourism will certainly make note of it,” he added.