The Holiday [retro review]

I have a cow and I sew. How’s that for ‘hard to relate to’?

The Scoop: 2006 PG-13, directed by Nancy Myers and starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, and Jack Black

Tagline: No Tagline

Summary Capsule: Two women switch lives, although at least they don’t switch dating lives cause that would be an entirely flick altogether, and rated a lot higher for incest.

Lissa’s Rating: Sometimes you’re just in the mood for corny.

Lissa’s Review: If you are a guy, don’t even bother with this movie unless a.) you’re in trouble, b.) you’re trying to earn points, or c.) you actually really like chick flicks. The Holiday, while not doused in pink, sugar plums, and sparkles, is a total chick flick, with absolutely no nudity. I think it’s cute and sweet and a very nice movie, but I also have two X chromosomes. Now, with that disclaimer in place, I can continue with the real review.

I’ve always felt that my romantic life would make a very, very boring movie. I’ve dated my share of jerks (two, really), but I’ve also dated a lot of very nice guys. None of these very nice guys and I had all that dramatic of a beginning, either. We met in the sort of ways that normal people meet: one was in band, one… well, I forget how I met him, he’d just always sort of been there, and I met Duckie when we both enrolled in the same grad program. And none of these guys and I hated each other on site and engaged in witty banter and eventually won each other over through a series of coincidental meetings. See? Boring material for a movie. Or so I thought.

The Holiday is the story of two women who both have a heartbreak right before Christmas. Iris (Kate Winslet) has been being jerked around by the same guy for three years when he announces his engagement at the company Christmas party. Amanda (Cameron Diaz) forces a confession of infidelity out of her live-in boyfriend. Both desperate to get away, they decide to swap homes. And naturally, in doing so, they meet new men. Amanda meets Iris’s brother Graham (Jude Law), and Iris meets one of Amanda’s coworkers Miles (Jack Black). Predictably, both couples fall in love.

Sure, it’s totally predictable. But it’s not formulaic. I started my review with the second paragraph for a reason: I could actually believe in these romances because, ready for this? The meetings were believable and all four characters were actually nice to each other. I mean, they behaved like truly decent, nice human beings. They were honest with each other, no one was cheating, and they actually formed a base of friendship that was supported in some common interests and activities I believe that people actually do. And — surprise, Hollywood! — I didn’t remotely lose interest.

The success of The Holiday actually hangs on Amanda and Iris. Cameron Diaz, even when she’s annoying me, as always come across as likeable and sweet — sort of an overgrown pixie. She’s toned down the more annoying edges and left the likeable and sweet, although her character is clearly an emotional mess. I’ve always really liked Kate Winslet, but I really enjoyed her in this because she just kind of let go. Instead of being the proper, serious Indie actress, she got a chance to be silly, and I really liked her that way. But more than that, one of the things I really liked about The Holiday was that Amanda and Iris had very real flaws, and that they were partly at fault for their current situations. While I never believe there’s an excuse for cheating, I did like how the writers highlighted that there were problems in Amanda’s failed relationship, and you could see where some of those problems were coming from her, especially as she began her relationship with Graham. And Iris was, flat out, a complete doormat that allowed herself to be jerked around by her first guy.

The guys they meet are also incredibly enjoyable. I normally don’t really care for Jude Law — he generally comes across as very cocky to me, and he sort of annoys me. But he turned in a really nice performance in this, with a rather vulnerable side that made me just want to hug his character. (Oh, and Mr. Napkinhead? Whoever wrote this must know what it’s like to live in a house like this. Mr. Napkinhead reminded me SO MUCH of dinners with my family, where we were all trying to pretend everything was normal and got a running gag going (only in our case it was called “Dinnertime Theater” and featured my brother and my sister’s boyfriend pretending they were flamboyantly gay lovers). I almost cried at Mr. Napkinhead.) And it was nice to see Jack Black tone down the silliness and just be a nice guy.

Nice, nice, nice. That’s really the best thing to describe The Holiday. I was totally rooting for both couples because everyone was just so NICE, and you really wanted them to be happy. It was a nice movie that made me smile completely, and a really good movie to see on a day when Duckie had been nice enough to offer me the day off. So go see it or rent it and enjoy, because that’s really what this one’s all about.

Kyle’s Rating: just for you here’s a love song / and it makes me glad to say / it’s been a lovely day / and it’s okay!

Kyle’s Review: Despite the unavoidable fact that I largely loathe Cameron Diaz, I found The Holiday to be an absolutely fantastic film and a lovely romantic event for you and a significant other to indulge in some lazy afternoon. Quite surprisingly so, actually! It sounds as though it would stumble mightily by virtue of concurrent storylines and the dichotomy between love in the States and in the UK, along with the inclusion of said roadblock Diaz, but I’ll be darned if the whole thing doesn’t stand out as a successful and endlessly charming romantic comedy. Who would’ve thunk it?

The Holiday actually reminds me quite a bit of Love Actually, with its relatively large cast (not as big as Love Actually, but larger than usual) and Christmas themes and emphasis on the lives of the characters over their romantic quirks. Something about The Holiday, however, allowed me to enjoy it much more on the first viewing than Love Actually. I think it happens to simply be a little more polished as a film, and also because of its focus (despite all the peripheral characters) on the four main leads: we are able to see (especially, as Lissa observed, with the two female leads) them grow as people willing and able to give and accept love. I think that was really surprised and impressed me about The Holiday: usually in these films it’s the characters that are perfect already and the obstacles keeping them apart that are flawed, but here the characters themselves are flawed in various ways and we see how they all manage to grow and overcome to become who they need to be to be together.

Sounds sweet, doesn’t it? It is sweet! I love it!

The romantic comedy genre is one that can always stand a little innovation and reinvention to stay fresh, and films like Love Actually and The Holiday help the world stay smiling and glowing in a nice way. I guarantee, simply by virtue of statistics, that one of the main cast (Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black, Kate Winslet) is going to be one of your favorites, so that should entice you enough to give this a try. It’s very rare when a film offers legitimate love connections along with plausible character development and absolutely brilliant dialogue, so a film like The Holiday should be cherished as an impressive addition to the ranks. It may not try to be anything more than a pleasant look at the redemption of four lonely and misguided people, but in staying true to its characters and the vagaries of developing love it manages to be much more than a standard “meet cute and end up together after idiotic circumstances” cash-in film.

Like Lissa said, these are nice people who deserve happiness and find it, and if that doesn’t make you smile you probably shouldn’t have clicked on this review in the first place!

Composing the MRFH theme song!


Intermission!

  • Gigli is on Amanda’s shelves. EWW.
  • Iris’s first movie that she picks out to watch is Punch Drunk Love.
  • Apparently Enigma was also on the shelf, which Kate Winslet stars in.
  • Okay, this bugged me a bit, so I have to mention it here. One of my favorite non-fantasy authors is Maeve Binchy. (If you’ve read any of her stuff, I’ll bet you know exactly where I’m going with this.) One of my favorite books of hers is called Tara Road. Exact. Same. Premise. Well, close enough. Woman in Ireland (instead of England) is cheated on and switches houses with a woman in America, who needs to get away. There are plenty of differences- enough that I wouldn’t remotely call it a rip-off or plagiarism, but if you liked this, you should definitely read that. Interesting similarities in personality between Iris and Ria, as well as between Amanda and Marilyn, although their situations are totally different.

Groovy Quotes

Amanda: You know Graham, I just broke up with someone and considering you just showed up and your insanely good-looking and probably won’t remember me anyway… I’m thinking we should have sex… If you want
Graham: Is that a trick question?

Olivia: You look like my Barbie!

Iris: I understand feeling as small and as insignificant as humanly possible. And how it can actually ache in places you didn’t know you had inside you. And it doesn’t matter how many new haircuts you get, or gyms you join, or how many glasses of Chardonnay you drink with your girlfriends… you still go to bed every night going over every detail and wonder what you did wrong or how you could have misunderstood. And how in the hell for that brief moment you could think that you were that happy. And sometimes you can even convince yourself that he’ll see the light and show up at your door. And after all that, however long all that may be, you’ll go somewhere new. And you’ll meet people who make you feel worthwhile again. And little pieces of your soul will finally come back. And all that fuzzy stuff, those years of your life that you wasted, that will eventually begin to fade.

Graham: I have a cow and I sew. How’s that for “hard to relate to”?

Graham: I have the classic male problem of no follow through. Absolutely never remember to call after a date – but as this wasn’t a date, I guess I’m off the hook.

Arthur Abbott: Iris, in the movies, we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason, you’re behaving like the best friend.

Graham: Long distance relationships can work, you know.
Amanda: Really? I can’t make one work when I live in the same house with someone.

Olivia: Mr. NAPKINHEAD!

If you liked this movie, try these:

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Ten Romantic Comedies Actually Worth Watching « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

  2. Pingback: Eunice does While You Were Sleeping « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

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