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Half a Good Movie in The Holiday

Published December 7, 2006 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Columbia Pictures.
The Holiday Poster The Holiday
The Holiday features two parallel stories about women discovering themselves on vacation, so since the film is divided in half, it makes sense that it’s only half a good movie. Nancy Meyers’ trademark thinking comedies always deliver a perceptive perspective on relationships, but this one forgets to be funny too.

Movie Review: The Holiday

Iris (Kate Winslet) is about to spend another holiday pining for her unresponsive boss when she finds out he’s engaged. Amanda (Cameron Diaz) discovers her boyfriend has cheated on her. Both need to get away, so they swap houses. Amanda lives in England where she romances Iris’s dreamy brother (Jude Law) while Iris lives it up in L.A. where she discovers an old Hollywood screenwriter (Eli Wallach) and a nice guy composer (Jack Black). Finally, the women get a handle on their relationships.

The Holiday lost me early on with Iris’s narration about the nature of love. It wasn’t so much observant as it was the cliché of obsessing over the one you can’t have. It screamed “Feel for me!” Admittedly, the heroine’s standard pathetic lovelorn-ness was classed up by Kate Winslet, but it was still too typical to care.

Amanda’s “cute” antics were even more tiresome. Her schtick about not being physically able to cry is too obvious a trick, and all her slipping on snow, driving panic and singing and dancing alone reek of playing to the camera. She talks to herself out loud way too much to be a character not in a movie. Could they not figure out a way to move the plot along with her acting like a person who doesn’t know millions of moviegoers are watching her?

Iris’s happy dance is way cuter. She at least seems like she’s discovering a new world, and such a sad sack that it informs character growth when she starts jumping around. Amanda is already a performer when we first meet her.

The only real laugh in the movie is a fake movie trailer that Amanda cuts. It gets all the bad action one-liners and double gun moves that they use to sell those movies. The trailer voice repeating in Amanda’s life is a noble effort, but not as smart. By then it’s like “We get it.”

Characters getting drunk may be intended as comic set pieces but they really just act like harmless drunk people. Nothing too embarrassing or clever. I know the dancing around is supposed to be funny but come on. Meyers gave us menopause sex jokes last time around, and all she’s got now is dancing? A call waiting mix-up has to top Seinfeld’s gay rumor debacle, and the one in this movie doesn’t.

Eli Wallach plays a wonderful character and his elderly observations are delightful, though not hysterical. Black plays a really sweet guy who’s performance of classic movie themes is endearing, but also not ROTFLMAO. His grazing the boob line is cute, but these are brief glimmers in a “comedy” that runs over two hours.

The sweetness grows on you. Jude Law betrays his suave player typecast. Black and Winslet have genuine moments as they get closer, and her caring for the screenwriter is the most sympathetic thing in the movie.

The characters keep analyzing relationships and it’s heartfelt, but standard. Nice people are attracted to bad boys and bad girls. The working woman is afraid of complications. There’s got to be more to say about relationships than that.

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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Columbia Pictures.

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