Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Holiday

Year: 2006
Running time: 138 minutes
Certificate: 12A
Language: English
Screenplay: Nancy Meyers
Director: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Rufus Sewell, Edward Burns

Amanda and Graham take refuge in a home-made den.
I am ashamed to admit that I have a prejudice. It’s true. Romantic comedies are generally crap. Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap. I’m sorry, I can’t help it. It was a wonderful genre, back in the time that scenes in this movie allude to, when they had sparkle, originality, when they were fun (see Some Like It Hot, It Happened One Night, Pillow Talk and countless others). But now, the genre is choking to death on one too many Sweet Home Alabamas (and that’s nothing against Reese Witherspoon, who in the right role is wonderful).

Well, there are always exceptions, and The Holiday goes some way to restoring some of my faith in the rom-com. Of course, casting four cracking lead actors goes a long way to make this what it is; without them, this would likely be barely average.

Iris (Kate Winslet) is a journalist writing a wedding column suffering from unrequited love; she pines after Jasper (Rufus Sewell), a sorry excuse for a human who clearly intends to string Iris along for as long as he can while continuing his other relationship. Amanda (Cameron Diaz) is a trailer producer in LA who has just kicked out her unfaithful boyfriend Ethan (Edward Burns). In an attempt to leave their disastrous relationships behind, they spend some time in each other's homes via a house-swap holiday website.

While on the other side of the world for a holiday, both women fall in love with new men, because of course they do. Amanda meets Graham (Jude Law), Iris' brother and impossibly perfect widowed father of two adorable children. Iris meets elderly retired screenwriter Arthur (Eli Wallach) and composer Miles (Jack Black). It is Iris' story that I find to be more absorbing, as both Arthur and Miles are infused with a love of film, be it explaining the 'meet-cute' or discussing favourite soundtracks, and, frankly, I could listen to that shit all day long.

Iris and Miles talk soundtracks.
Other things lifting this out of the myriad of mediocrity that is this genre include the lovely English Winter scenery and the accomplished direction of Nancy Meyers - I think being a writer-director in this type of genre means she may not have got the credit her skill deserves - What Women Want and Something's Gotta Give are other examples of her quietly professional style.

It's not all good, though - Meyers' direction is better than her writing here. The dialogue is clunky at times, and it is Winslet that gets the majority of the most difficult lines. Even with so fantastic an actor, some moments of dialogue just don't work. In addition, the final scene of all these fabulously rich and deliriously happy white folks enjoying themselves in a giant mansion having overcome their problems which were never really problems to begin with (like not being able to cry - turns out she just needed to be away from Jude Law for a while) genuinely makes me want to punch them all. I do try not to let that ruin the rest of the film for me, however.

Overall, this is funny, warm and romantic but entirely unmemorable; just what you need for some brain-disengaging entertainment for the holidays. Which begs the question why I'm reviewing it in August. Oh well.

Score:  6/10

The Holiday is not particularly well-reviewed out there - see this one from Richard Roeper, for example. And Peter at the Guardian really didn't like it.