And you thought you needed a vacation
Just in time for the holidays comes this year’s fluffiest romantic comedy, aptly named The Holiday. The title has a double meaning, referring to both the vacations the leading characters take and the time of year in which they take it. Directed by Nancy Meyers (What Women Want and Something’s Gotta Give) this movie isn’t just about one type of love, it’s about the need for love, what that entails, and the different types of love one encounters. It is about romantic love, familial love and friendship love. All of the characters in this movie are looking for connections with others as the sense of loneliness during the holiday season creeps in.
In this flick Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz play women on opposite sides of the pond in desperate needs of time away from their real lives. Iris (Winslet) is a newspaper columnist trying to get over a recently engaged ex-boyfriend and Amanda (Diaz) is a high powered movie-trailer producer in Los Angeles whose career keeps pushing away men who try to get close to her.
On a whim Amanda looks online for vacation locations so she can escape her loneliness during the Christmas season, and she comes across a home exchange website where Iris has listed her house. The two women exchange some instant messages and decide that they will make the switch the next day. Upon arrival to each others homes, it becomes apparent that these two women could not be more different. Iris is in awe of Amanda’s luxurious home. She races through the house basking in the glory that is the home gym, plasma television, modern kitchen, Olympic sized pool, and finally the king sized bed. Paralleled to that is Amanda’s arrival at Iris’s modest cottage in the snowy English town. Schlepping her luggage through the snow in her stiletto heals, Amanda cannot believe her misfortune upon the arrival to this quaint and quiet home. She wanted to be alone, but not that alone.
Not until Iris’s brother Graham (Jude Law) arrives does Amanda begin to see the redeeming qualities of her vacation spot. Not knowing his sister is out of town Graham drunkenly imposes upon her home and to his surprise, a lonely American girl awaits some excitement. In a rare moment of spontaneity (as Amanda puts it) she takes him to bed (his sister’s bed no less…yuck!). Similarly, back in L.A., Iris is also looking for companionship. However, hers comes in a very different way. It comes in the form of her 90 year old neighbor Arthur Abbot (the always remarkable Eli Wallach). Arthur is an old time Hollywood screen writer and through his love of the movies and the strong leading women in those films, Iris learns to recapture her own gumption to be able to let go of her obsession with her ex, Jasper (Rufus Sewell). Once she learns this, she can see another new acquaintance, Miles (Jack Black), as more than just a new friend.
This movie tries to be a lot smarter than your average holiday-time romantic comedy. It employs a lot of tongue in cheek humor and makes many references to classic films from a bygone Hollywood era. Arthur waxes nostalgia about the days of Louis B. Meyer and when the writing was worth listening to. There are clever tie-ins, teaching the audience terms like meet-cute and cameos from Bill Macy and Shelley Berman, actors from said era.
However, clocking in at over 2 and a half hours, it is a lot longer than it needs to be. The length does make the movie drag along by the end. It also does have almost every cliché in the book. Throughout the movie a running theme is Amanda’s inability to cry. She hasn’t cried since her parents split up when she was 15. Gee, I wonder what’s going to happen after she leaves Graham and his admission of love as she heads back to the airport.
I will say this, the casting was great. All four leading roles were written for the actors who played them. Jack Black probably wouldn’t be the first person who comes to mind when thinking of a romantic lead to pair with Kate Winslet, but in The Holiday it works. If her character would be pining away for him, it wouldn’t be so believable, but as the go to nice guy friend, he is perfect. Ms. Winslet is perfectly cute and sweet as she plays the romantically obsessed writer determined to make a new life for herself. Ms. Diaz is superbly cast as the workaholic career driven woman who will never compromise on glamour, no matter how ridiculous the situation. And finally, who else but Mr. Law could play the super sexy yet possibly less than noble suitor for the high-strung Amanda?
Perfect for those who are looking for a light romantic comedy during Oscar season’s heavy politically charged dramas, The Holiday will lighten your spirits fulfill the annual need for a low-key, love filled movie about finding the right one during the holiday season.