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It’s time to come clean in this sequence from “The Holdovers,” a comedy set in 1970 during the holiday break at an all-boys boarding school. One student, Angus Tully (played by the newcomer Dominic Sessa) must stay on campus during the break, and a teacher, Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) is tasked with watching him during this time.
At one point, the two leave campus for a trip to Boston where Paul runs into, and lies to, an old college acquaintance. Angus confronts his teacher about the lie in this scene in a liquor store that plays out primarily in one take.
“In general, if I have the right actors, I like the idea of doing pages of dialogue in single takes,” the film’s director, Alexander Payne, said in an interview. “I think it’s elegant. It’s a lovely way to work. And even going back to film school, I had a Polish directing teacher who was always trying to instill in us the beauty of the of the fluid master, the long take in which you choreograph your actors to the camera.”
Rows of liquor bottles separate the characters during one exchange, helping to punctuate the narrative as Paul confesses an incident with his roommate at Harvard that led to dire consequences.
For the scene, which was shot at a liquor store in Cambridge, Mass., Payne did a bit of hyperlocal casting. One comic line is delivered by a cashier played by Joe Howell, who actually worked at the store.
Read the “Holdovers” review.
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