Cameron Diaz as Amanda
Kate Winslet as Iris
Jude Law as Graham
Jack Black as Miles
Eli Wallach as Arthur Abbott
Edward Burns as Ethan
Rufus Sewell as Jasper
Miffy Englefield as Sophie
Emma Pritchard as Olivia
Sarah Parish as Hannah
Shannyn Sossamon as Maggie
John Krasinski as Ben
Directed by Nancy Meyers
Nancy Meyers drops the ball as she tries too hard to pander to her usual female audience with unrealistic and unbelievable situations.
Amanda and Iris (Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet) switch houses over the Christmas holidays to try to escape their problems, little knowing that their new surroundings will bring them more than the much-needed change they were seeking.
Fans of the romantic comedy genre (i.e. not me) will probably know the work of Nancy Meyers, a filmmaker who always seems to know “what women want,” pandering to those feminine sensibilities with quirky, imperfect heroines and the far-too-perfect men who love them unconditionally. There’s a big difference between being a hopeless romantic and being hopelessly romantic and Meyers’ latest “The Holiday” makes that definition even clearer.
Essentially two separate stories in one, “The Holiday” follows two women in unsatisfying relationships who swap houses and continents in order to make a change in their lives. Amanda (Cameron Diaz) is a successful producer of movie trailers whose boyfriend (Ed Burns) cheated on her, while Iris (Winslet), a native of Surrey, England, has been pining over a co-worker (Rufus Sewell) for years until he gets engaged to another woman. After exchanging houses and getting the predictable fish-out-of-water humor out of the way, they each find reasons to make a permanent move to their holiday spots. For Amanda, it’s Iris’ older brother Graham (Jude Law), while Iris finds happiness by spending time with her elderly neighbor (Eli Wallach) and a charming film score composer (Jack Black).
The premise of Meyers’ latest romantic comedy isn’t particularly complex, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not exactly something that leads to hilarious situations either. Once the two women have changed houses and adjusted to their new environment, the premise is stretched pretty thin, as the movie alternates between the two stories. There’s plenty of romance in the form of the characters laying it on a bit thick with their extrapolations on love and relationship, but it’s surprisingly lacking on actual laughs, often resorting to easy physical gags. For someone who has laid the groundwork for the modern romantic comedy, Meyers’ latest is surprisingly unoriginal, stepping on Richard Curtis’ toes with its British setting, and even stealing a prominent song from Zach Braff’s “Garden State,” a far more original romantic comedy.
Kate Winslet’s half of the movie isn’t bad, maybe because she seems relaxed in the role even when hamming it up for laughs. One can’t help but think that she’s slumming to do this movie, compared to other recent roles–does anyone believe that her love would ever be unrequited?–though she does her best to make some of the sappier scenes tolerable. On the other hand, Diaz disguises the acting range she displayed for “In Her Shoes,” by playing the same sort of wacky, aggressive woman we’ve see her play so many times before, only in England. The sad fact is that Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz together don’t add up to one Diane Keaton, as hard as they try to play the stereotypical, neurotic Meyers heroine.
In previous films, Meyers included a strong male presence to counterbalance those quirky women, but Jude Law and Jack Black just don’t cut it, instead being soft, wishy-washy and overly sensitive. It’s not very believable that either of these women, particularly Amanda, would find these wimpy males attractive, let alone be won over so easily. At least Black offers a bit of charm and some funny moments, but Law is basically the same character he always plays.
Eli Wallach’s entrance as an elderly neighbor raises the bar a bit, but it also sends the movie off onto another needless tangent, making the movie far longer than it probably should be. Still, the fact that it takes Wallach and two adorable kids to pull the movie out of the mire is rather telling.
Obviously, Meyers knows her audience but she seems to be trying too hard to play up to them and often failing. When someone in the movie proclaims that something is too corny, Iris retorts with, “I like corny. I’m looking for corny in my life.” Those who like corny should find more than enough to keep them sated.
The Bottom Line:
Women are likely to forgive Nancy Meyers for this formula-driven romantic comedy, as they swoon over the unrealistic romantic situations. Who knows? Maybe “The Holiday” might be considered a decent date movie… but only if guys were allowed to leave their testicles at home. (Tip for the ladies: If the guy who takes you to see this movie tells you he loved it, he’s probably lying to get into your pants.)