The Holiday

Iris (Kate Winslet), a London-based journalist, has just had her heart destroyed by her colleague Jasper, who she has longed after for many years, but he’s just got engaged to someone else. Meanwhile Amanda (Cameron Diaz), the owner of a hugely successful L.A. movie trailer company, has just discovered her boyfriend Ethan (Edward Burns) is cheating on her. Both women decide they need to get away from everything for a few weeks, so opt for a house swap, trading homes for a fortnight over the Christmas period. But when they had originally hoped to get away from love, they each end up finding it in the most unexpected of places.

When Aisha chose Kate Winslet as her choice for an actor of whose entire body of work I’d not only watch but review, part of me knew that The Holiday was the main reason behind it, as after the last viewing I’d all but sworn never to watch it again. Alas, my commitment to a challenge and willingness to prove myself against any obstacle has forced me to bite the bullet and watch this film, one of my girlfriend’s all time favourites, especially when it comes to Christmas films. Her adoration for the film also means that I’m going to be quite careful about criticising it, as it is Christmas after all, a time for peace, goodwill and keeping one’s near endless stream on isnults to oneself.


But dear lord is this film long. So goddamn long. The 130 minutes I spent watching this felt like an eternity, and if I hadn’t opted never to see it again before, that statement is being underlined in a thick, festive, sparkly gold pen this time around. It was probably unfair of me to watch this film straight after a far greater romantically-themed Yuletide film, Love, Actually. In case you’re unaware (and I’d strongly recommend you become more aware), Love, Actually depicts around a dozen tangentially linked love stories, predominantly set in London in the weeks coming up to Christmas. All of the stories are given enough time without overstepping their boundaries, most reach satisfying conclusions and, for the most part, feel both real, entertaining, heart-warming and funny. And all of this is done in 129 minutes. The Holiday, with a whole sixty extra seconds at its disposal, gives us just two such stories, Iris’ and Amanda’s, with a little bit of time given to the respective histories of their love interests, Jack Black and Jude Law, and Eli Wallach as Iris’ new neighbour. And yet even with the extra time, I still feel that the characters in Love, Actually are more well rounded, plausible and relatable, even Bill Nighy’s aging rock star and Hugh Grant’s bachelor Prime Minister.

But hold on, I went a bit negative there, and I’m trying not to do that. I suppose I shouldn’t have compared this film to one of the best of the genre (festive romantic comedy), and instead I’ll knock out festive and just see how this does when stacked against the seemingly endless slew of romantic comedies churned out in the past decade. When compared to those, The Holiday actually has quite a bit going for it for people that have an interest in movies. This is because not only is one half of the film set in Los Angeles, but Eli Wallach’s character is an Oscar-winning script writer, Jack Black’s is a composer, and there’s a smattering of cinematic references peppered throughout the film. Whether it’s Black’s Miles celebrating the great film scores (complete with one of the most unexpected and still puzzling cameos I’ve seen), or Wallach’s Arthur recommending the classics to Iris, or the latest trailer Diaz’s Amanda has cut for a Lindsay Lohan and James Franco starring film called Deception, there’s lot of sly cuts at the state of film making today, specifically how more films cannot guarantee greater quality. This is something I can fully get on board with, however the movie world sub-plot is buried so deeply amongst the insipid love stories that it fails to make much of an impact.

Seeing as this is a film both written and directed by Nancy Meyers (What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated), it will come as no surprise to discover that all of the characters are wealthy, middle-to-upper class white people with no real problems other than emotional ones. Every aspect of both Iris and Amanda’s lives is perfect, from their jobs to their homes, and its only their utter devotion to their careers that has left them without much of a home life to lead in their extravagant homes. It is possibly the abodes of these two women that most separates myself and my girlfriend. Iris’ chocolate box snow-covered cottage buried in the Surrey countryside and only accessible via a winding country lane and a couple of fields has long been Aisha’s dream home, and she was less than pleased to discover that such a place does not exist. Amanda’s palatial L.A. mansion on the other hand is my idea of perfection – a giant cinema room, shelves overflowing with DVDs, remote controlled blackout blinds, swimming pool, gym, giant rooms, and did I mention the multi-award winning screenplay writer living next door?

If you want a standard romantic comedy, you can do worse than this, and it may even educate some people on what classic films they should be watching instead, but if you’re after something genuinely enjoyable and with a tolerable running time, I’d suggest looking elsewhere. Plus, even though the film is set over the Christmas period, absolutely no mention is made of Christmas day! I couldn’t believe it when the plot skipped from Iris and Miles going out for pasta on Christmas Eve, to shopping for a hat for Arthur some days later. I’m not even sure what the point of the Christmas setting was, other than to intensify the juxtaposition between the sun-drenched L.A. and the knee-deep snow of Surrey. I suppose the final New Year’s Eve scene ties it all together nicely, but that’s a bit of a stretch.

Choose life 6/10

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8 thoughts on “The Holiday

  1. I'm siding with you on this one, especially your last paragraph. I like how you put it: in terms of rom coms, you could do worse, but is that really a compliment? Rom coms as a whole are pretty awful (I wish they weren't as I like the genre), and this one is, well, okay, but it's not great. After hearing my girlfriends rave about this one, I finally watched it late one night on cable and was mildly entertained, but also rather annoyed by it. It feels so damn shallow, and I don't mean the characters (although they probably are shallow too), more how their plot lines evolve and conclude.If anything, The Holiday depressed me, because if this is one of the better modern romantic comedies, what does that say about romantic comedies????

  2. I didn't dislike this movie as much as you, but I didn't like it as much as your girlfriend, either. It was just sort of "there" for me, not good, not bad. I do remember wondering why Winslet was in it. About the only really negative thing I'd say about it is that I just couldn't buy Jack Black as a romantic interest for Kate Winslet.And I'm afraid I have to disagree on this being one of the better rom-coms. There are dozens of that genre I would pick before I would mention this one to anyone else.

  3. There were a few enjoyable elements to this film. The fish out of the water element is usually entertaining and eli wallach's character was a gem. My problem with this film is that I absolutely dislike Cameron diaz. And here she is worse that usual. And chip I'd right, jack black as the great lover? Nah…

  4. Agree agree agree, although I'm not sure if its one of the better ones overall, but maybe one of the better ones from the deluge that is the middle-of-the-rad. Obviously things like When Harry Met Sally and the aforementioned Love, Actually are the better ones.

  5. I think Winslet may have been in it in an attempt to do something lighter, as this is positioned between the likes of Little Children and The Reader in her career. And Jack Black just comes off as creepy to me.

  6. Cameron Diaz is usually a reason not to watch a film for me, I've never seen the appeal. There are some films that are great in spite of her (The Mask, Being John Malkovich, There's Something About Mary) but I just don't like her as an actress.

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