Director Alexander Payne Says Today’s Movies Are Too Long

The Holdovers director Alexander Payne said that he too is frustrated by bloated movie run times. Payne made the comment at the Middleburg Film Festival on Saturday, October 21.

According to IndieWire, Payne feels moviegoers' pain about ballooning movie run times. The new Martin Scorsese release Killers of the Flower Moon, for example, clocks in at 206 minutes.  “You want your movie to be as short as possible,” says Payne. “There are too many d–n long movies these days. If your movie’s three-and-a-half hours at least let it be the shortest possible version of a three half hour movie. Like The Godfather Part II [and] Seven Samurai are super tight three-and-a-half hour movies and they go by like that. So there’s no ipso facto judgment about length.”

Alexander Payne's Latest Movie, The Holdovers, Clocks in at a Not-So-Short 133 Minutes

Alexander Payne's The Holdovers
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Alexander Payne's latest movie, the comedy-drama The Holdovers, clocks in at 133 minutes. The official plot description reads, “The Holdovers follows a curmudgeonly instructor (Paul Giamatti) at a New England prep school who is forced to remain on campus during the holiday break to babysit the handful of students with nowhere to go. Eventually, he forms an unlikely bond with one of them — a damaged, brainy troublemaker (newcomer Dominic Sessa) — and with the school’s head cook, who has just lost a son in Vietnam (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).”

Payne acknowledges that his latest film is longer than he thought. “It’s still a little long,” says Payne. “We started screening it, and [at] the first couple festivals I was looking at the program, and it said 133 minutes. I had to call up the studio and go ‘I don’t think it’s 133 minutes.' I thought we had gotten it down to around 124. ‘No, it’s 133 after the credits roll.’” He continues:

“Film is a constant search for economy. You want the screenplay as short as possible. You want the acting as brisk as possible, given whatever the basic rhythm of that film is. And then in the editing you want it to be as short as it can possibly be, but no shorter.”

Payne twice won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for cowriting Sideways and The Descendants, two movies which he also directed. Other notable movies that Payne directed include Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt, Nebraska, and Downsizing.

The Holdovers opens in select theaters on October 27 before going wide on November 10.