This film is two love stories in one, and that’s just one of it’s peculiarities, The Holiday is filled with them. It’s a smart romantic comedy (what? Hollywood still knows how to make those?), it’s two-and-a-half-hours long (go to the restroom before you sit down and order the smaller drink), with one of the love interests being Jack Black (the guy from Tenacious D?). One might think this would be too many chances to take. One would be wrong.
Instead director Nancy Meyers gives us a great Christmas present – a fun romantic comedy, a chick-flick that guys can actually tolerate and enjoy. Who would have thought it possible? Merry Christmas everyone!
Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and Iris (Kate Winslet) have two things in common: neither has good taste in men, and both are depressed and alone at Christmas. The two complete strangers decide to swap lives for two weeks. And so movie trailer maker Amanda finds herself in a small British town in a cozy home with a stack of books, and Iris ends up in a posh L.A. mansion with a host of DVD’s.
As each explores their new surroundings they meet new people. Amanda falls immeadiately for Iris’ roguishly handsome brother (Jude Law), and Iris cultivates two friendships – the first with an elderly screenwriter (Eli Wallach), and the second with a composer (Jack Black) who has as much luck in love as she does.
Casting and chemistry can easily make or break a romantic comedy, and here writer/director Nancy Meyers has chosen well. We can easily see Law and Diaz as a couple, and Winslet and Black fit together almost as well. It’s amazing that the film has two completely separate stories without forcing either into a supporting role. Each earns its screentime, and although the end result is a tad long for this type of film, its also hard to figure out what exactly you would cut.
Aside from the running time the only other negative is the flimsy construction that sets up the stories – the home exchange. Although a great idea, you have to wonder who would actually do this in real life and how anyone would trust a complete stranger with everything they own. Still, this genre isn’t known for its logic, and the film plays out well enough that I’ll forgive this Hollywood set-up.
On to performances. I’ve been a fan of Diaz for a long time, though mostly in smaller indie films rather than larger Hollywood fair such as this. She and Law make a great couple, and its a nice change of pace to see Law in this role which could could easily (and wrongly) gone to someone like Hugh Grant. As for Black and Winslet (who both have other films in theaters right now) they provide the more accessible couple as opposed to the glamour of Diaz and Law. All four do great jobs in providing both humor and real emotion on screen.
I can’t end the review without talking about Eli Wallach, whose name starts the main theme from The Magnificent Seven looping in my brain. It’s great to see him on screen, and even better in a role where he actually means something to the plot of the story and the other characters.