A passable rom-com that takes place during the Christmas season, The Holiday may not be the first film that anyone reaches for when they want something full of tinsel and cheer but it’s enjoyable enough, buoyed by a great cast working well with each other.
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year for many people but it’s worth remembering that it can also be the worst time of the year, especially for those suffering heartache or keenly feeling a loss that they never think they will recover from. The Holiday covers both ends of the spectrum and does so with a light, sweet touch that belies some of the material it contains (infidelity, unrequited love, the death of a loved one). It’s not a great film but it has moments that will make even those with the hardest heart smile just a little bit.
Cameron Diaz plays Amanda, a woman who has just kicked out her beau (Edward Burns) because he fooled around with his secretary. Kate Winslet plays Iris, a woman who has somehow remains friends with the man she loves (Rufus Sewell), despite the fact that he cheated on her and always seems to be able to break her heart. When he once again gets her heart a flutter moments before his engagement is announced, Iris realises that enough is enough. She wants to get away for the holiday season. Amanda also wants to get away for the holiday season. So when Iris lists her house in a home exchange holiday deal it’s Amanda who replies and the pair use each other to escape their lives and get away from those troublesome men. Of course, other men enter their lives. Amanda is surprised when she finds out that Iris has a brother named Graham (Jude Law) who often stays over when he’s had too much to drink at the local pub and Iris finds two very different but equally lovely men entering her life: Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach), an elderly neighbour who wrote many Hollywood classics, and Miles (Jack Black), a film composer. Amanda has her suspicions about Graham and Iris sees Miles in a relationship so maybe only friendship lies ahead. Maybe.
It’s fairly predictable stuff, and there’s nothing here outside of the usual rom-com comfort zone, but it does manage to evoke that feeling of misery that can creep into the hearts of the lonely when the Christmas season comes around. None of the bleaker details are dwelt on for too long but they are there.
Writer-director Nancy Meyers doesn’t do too badly (she’s certainly directed worse) but the fluffy and generic material is lifted up a notch by the great work done by the main cast members. Diaz pitches the daffy and neurotic routine just right, for a change, while Winslet is as enjoyable as she so often is (and, considering the similiar feel to the movie, it’s intriguing to consider just how she could have done playing a certain Bridget Jones if the casting folk hadn’t gone with the very good Renee Zellweger). Jude Law is amusing, though not a very convincing drunk in his first few scenes, while those who normally hate Jack Black may not really mind his tame turn here, a performance that maintains some of his humour and yet leaves his character as someone very easy to warm to and root for. Eli Wallach is great and the scenes featuring dialogue between him and Winslet were, for me, the highlight of the film. Edward Burns doesn’t do all that much and Rufus Sewell is a bit of a git (is it just me or has he been typecast for quite some time now?).
Everything comes together as messily and/or neatly as required, the music helps to make sure you’re feeling the emotion that the director wants you to be feeling and there’s an English village carpeted in snow as Christmas approaches. Yes, it’s THAT kind of film. And, as previously alluded to above, it’s a film that suffers when you sit there and keep thinking “Bridget Jones’s Diary was much better than this so maybe I should just stick that on”. But, taken on its own merits, it’s not half bad. Obviously geared towards female viewers (especially in the way that there aren’t really any main male characters with other aspects to them other than to show horrible failings or idealistic perfection), this is tolerable if you’re a male and makes for a decent date movie if you want to cosy up on a winter evening.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: NANCY MEYERS
STARS: CAMERON DIAZ, KATE WINSLET, JUDE LAW, JACK BLACK, ELI WALLACH, EDWARD BURNS, RUFUS SEWELL, SHANNYN SOSSAMON
RUNTIME: 138 MINS APPROX
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