Courtesy of MovieXclusive.com
In trying to recreate the seasonal success of the culture-crossing Love Actually, one of Hollywoods most sought-after female filmmakers, Nancy Meyers extends her romantic comedy repertoire by writing and directing The Holiday. And as with all of Meyers films, cutesiness and happy endings are firmly distinguishable on the horizon. While longer than most epic romances in its 2-hour-plus runtime, it relies on contrivances and cloying dialogue wrapped in a sleek holiday fairytale to sell us 2 rather non-epic love stories that take place half way across the world from each other.
At its core, The Holiday tries its hardest to craft a sense of nostalgic, golden-age-of-Hollywood sort of romance that either seems too tongue-in-cheek to be clever or just too tongue-tied to work. Brazenly quoting and referencing films such as The Lady Eve, Casablanca, it desperately attempts to add a touch of class to the rest of its proceedings that inevitably includes the most predictable and painfully derivative scenes in modern romantic comedies.
Once again Kate Winslet finds her natural exuberance and beauty being relegated to a plain-jane role in order to be placed understatedly alongside the American bombshell in Cameron Diaz, just one of its many character parallelisms keenly planned to differentiate these women. Winslet is Iris, an underappreciated reporter for a daily in London and Diaz epitomises the modern successful woman running a successful business cutting trailers for big-budget Hollywood movies. Different facets of their lives consume both ladies, Iris to her cheating ex-boyfriend and Amanda to her job. As both decide a holiday might do them both good in the absence of men, they swap cottage for mansion and Surrey for Hollywood.
Overly emphasising the implausibly simple adult relationships these ladies come to know, they each meet new men on their vacation away from men. Amanda meets Graham, yet another Jude Law performance where he mistakes smarmy for charming while Iris meets Miles, an uncomfortably understated Jack Black reveling in the films rare moments of Tenacious Dism. A giddy and lively Diaz makes the early part of the script work, when comedy is on its agenda. As it slides slowly through the motions of melodrama, Winslet comes to the fore only to underpin the awkward casting of Jack Black when they lack chemistry in key scenes. It does have an ace under its sleeves with its most consistent character in the 90 year-old Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach), an aging screenwriting legend who befriends Iris while delivering the best lines that cuts through the crap of self-pity and the films own cinematic conceit.
Theres also a misplaced sense of goodwill in the film when it urges us to celebrate with its apparently strong females in their moment of triumph, but really what self-respect can we afford them when they base their self-worth on their success with men? Despite its abhorrently long runtime and all its flaws, The Holiday is still probably the years prettiest and emotionally grounded romantic comedy with Nancy Meyers experience in the genre keeping it steady.