Nancy Meyers demonstrates an unequaled ability to do two things well: remake classic Disney movies (Father of the Bride, The Parent Trap) and create ambitious “chick flicks” (What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give). Let me preface my review of The Holiday with a few words about what I thought of those latter two films.
First of all: What Women Want…hated it. It plays to every stereotype ever perpetrated onto a romantic comedy and makes the horrid assumption that all men are dogs unless they’re lucky enough to literally know the innermost thoughts of women. As for Something’s Gotta Give, I think I saw about an hour’s worth of it on TV one time while I was waiting for something else to come on. So if you were a fan of either of those movies, you will probably enjoy The Holiday. For my part, I didn’t find it completely objectionable and while that may not be a ringing endorsement, the point is that I know what I hate and I didn’t hate this.
Iris (Kate Winslet) is a London newspaper writer and Amanda is an LA-based producer of movie trailers. Iris has just found out that the man she’s been having an affair with and been in love with for several years is marrying another woman while still trailing her along. Amanda, meanwhile, catches her boyfriend in an affair of his own and tosses him out on his ear. Both women, alone and wanting to get away at Christmas, meet each other through a vacation website where members switch houses; so Iris is off to Hollywood and Amanda’s goin’ to a little village outside London. Naturally, holiday follies occur as Iris meets film composer Miles (Jack Black) and Amanda falls for Iris’ charming brother Graham (Jude Law).
How utterly predictable. And no matter the hurdle or potential hurdle that Meyers throws up to keep these kids apart, we all know how it’s all going to turn out and it won’t be a killing spree ending that’s for sure. What sells it is the performances by the four main leads; they’re all affable and watchable enough to not wish any specific harm to befall them. I know, I’m barely gushing here, but the fact of the matter is that it’s essential in a movie like this that the cast be likable enough to surpass the romantic contrivances, and contrivances there are a plenty.
Some stuff I liked. Iris’ friendship with her neighbour the 90-year-old former screenwriter played by Eli Wallach is one, and the way Amanda sometimes thinks of her life as a movie trailer, another. Meyers stretches things out a little too long, about a half hour longer than she needs to because we get that the key romantic predicament is the fact of geography for the couples. Additionally, we know what movie we’re watching and that it’s all going to turn out all right in the end, so why drag it out?
In conclusion, I concede that I may be too cynical a person to mine anything but below average enjoyment out of The Holiday, but hopefully I’ve proved that I’m not cynical enough to give this movie a fair shake and may be you should too.