Written, Produced and Directed by Nancy Meyers
November 29, 2006 (New York City) / December 8, 2006 (United Kingdom and United States)
Two broken hearted women from opposite sides of the ocean switch homes during the holidays to heal their emotional wounds.
The film stars Kate Winslet as Iris who is a society columnist for the British paper The Daily Telegraph. Iris has been kept on a string by her off/on boyfriend Jasper (Rufus Sewell) and decides to take the Christmas slowdown at work as an opportunity to get away from it all and clear her head. Cameron Diaz is Amanda who owns a successful movie trailer company that after her most recent break up switches homes with Kate Winslet. Both fall easily into their respective roles. They have a look and style that gets you to invest in their characters in a movie like this.
It is a given in a film like this the women find love and lose the baggage of the past in order to be able to find real love. Here all it takes is leaving for another country and encountering the perfect guy. Nothing that any lovelorn woman is not capable of doing. An overseas plane ticket and a house rental for two weeks in a nice area is easily doable. Great guys are more common than air.
Jude Law has the part of local British hunk Graham who eventually sweeps Amanda off her feet and opens her up to love. Law is an actor made for romantic comedies. He just has that effortless style and natural charm that comes through on the big screen. Put him in a sweater or a dress shirt and he easily fits the bill of the charming local good looking man that unsettles (perhaps further) the life of the female lead. That is not a knock against his skill as an actor. Look is only part of the equation. You need skill to sell it and Law has plenty of that.
Jack Black would not have been my first choice to play Iris’s eventual love interest Miles who is a Hollywood music composer. Given what he is known for I just cannot picture him doing it but his performance here is good. He is charming and the pairing between the two is quite believable. They connect. I do not think Black’s dialogue is really that bad. It is not nearly as insipid or cloying as other romcom dialogue. But the big issue in this whole movie is Jack Black’s face. Not his face per se but the faces he makes with it. I always thought it was part of his comedic performance, but it is just part of his general performance. And that brings down what was otherwise a great romantic performance on his part. It is like some kind of weird smirk. A little muted here in comparison to other times but it is still there. I never thought one man’s expression could harm a film but here we are. He has skill as a general actor that is harmed by an inability to keep a normal face.
I admit I am a sucker for romantic films set during the holidays. We all like to believe in the magic of Christmas. There is a belief in most of us that there is some healing power in the season itself and movies often play into that. This one is no different. While it is not nearly as effective as Love Actually it is still very good. Plus it includes the legendary Eli Wallach as Arthur Abbott. He is a famous screenwriter from the Golden Age of Hollywood that Iris befriends. It is a small part, but it is Eli Wallach and he just lights up the screen. Watching this legend who was present during the time his character was in his prime is just magic. You get the feeling at times Wallach is drawing from his own past and not elements of the script. Bonus points for that.
Arthur gives Iris the emotional wisdom to cut ties with Jasper who she has been pining for during the past three years who was cheating on her when they were actually together. By getting Arthur to go to a banquet in his honor and becoming his friend she reevaluates her life and realizes how Jasper has been harming it and Miles has been making it better.
Iris’s brother Graham, with his good looks and the use of his penis, shows Amanda how to actually love. Seriously. That is some Lifetime movie logic right there. Their relationship begins with a one-night stand when he shows up at the cottage drunk expecting his sister to be there so he can use the bathroom and they boinkity boink that night. But their relationship does grow beyond that as they get to actually know each other and Amanda accidentally lets him in rather than keeping him emotionally distant like she has with other suitors. He gets her to let her guard down which had been up since the separation of her parents.
The Holiday is a light piece of fluff that knows how to manipulate you emotionally and that is why you watch it. You want to feel the characters highs and lows all the way to the end when they finally come out on top. Meyers knows how to craft enjoyable stuff like this. She is good at using the emotions of the audience. The script is breezy and sweet. The performances are not Oscar worthy, but they are good.
This film’s story is split between Los Angeles and a cottage in the British countryside. Truth be told there is very little visually that tells you the time of year, yet it still feels like Christmas during the film. The holiday is a presence throughout. Most films rely heavily on visual cues or heavy mentions of the date but not this movie.
The Holiday is a fine addition to the holiday romcom canon. You will enjoy yourself and get all the feels. Watch it!