2006Director: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law
unning long past the two-hour mark and demanding that its audience recognize no less than ten noteworthy characters, The Holiday is one truly epic film. And while I’ve heard that kind of thing can work this time of year, this latest Nancy Meyers project, overstuffed and undercooked, pretty much doesn’t work at all.
It begins with a lonely journalist named Iris (Kate Winslet) who pines for an unfeeling fellow Brit named Jasper (Rufus Sewell). A few thousand miles away, a leggy blonde who cuts movie trailers named Amanda (Cameron Diaz) extracts a confession of infidelity from her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, Ethan (Edward Burns). In a foot-stomping huff—the kind only leggy blondes do endearingly—Amanda sets up a house exchange with Iris for the winter holidays. Once the heartbroken ladies arrive at their new respective digs, we are treated to two fairly unconnected storylines populated with another six major characters. On one hand, two of them are played by Jude Law and Jack Black, but on the other, none of them are talking dragons.
If you’re curious as to what happens to these beautiful women stuck on alien continents, stripped of true love and their ability to act, I’d suggest you see the movie (though I do not, as a matter of general principle, suggest you do so). Suffice to say, this isn’t typical romantic comedy fare. Meyers sinks a great deal of time investing in her heroines the kind of complicated neuroses that hang up many real-life women—something done at the expense of fluffy montages. It’s not a particularly bad strategy, considering the way Diane Keaton took a strongly written part and turned it into a hit movie with Something’s Gotta Give. And while I do appreciate the effort to distinguish female characters from a brassy archetype, a good actress with a few clever lines can do a lot more than three monologues by Cameron Diaz and a mountain of Jude Law’s “you’re the most interesting woman I’ve ever met.”
Kate Winslet, by the way, fares no better. Her plotline is more complicated and her eyes are all the blearier, but her Iris commands shockingly little sympathy. What does this say about Nancy Meyers, whose specialty is supposedly writing adult characters? Never mind Diaz, but when you book the most accomplished actress of a generation to play a broken-hearted leading lady and can’t make it work, there’s something amiss. Either Meyers has overextended herself here or she’s lost a very good editor.
I’d suspect both. The Holiday works hard to develop psychological obstacles that prevent its characters from being happy, and then, suddenly remembering that it’s a romantic comedy, throws them to the winter winds in favor of a carefree romp around the living room coffee table. Forsaking comedy for realistic development (as though the two were mutually exclusive), the film mopes around until the final act when it springs to life from the sheer willpower of its genre. It’s worse than uneven; it’s silly.
There was, in fairness, something about this movie that I wanted to like. I think it was Jack Black. But there’s also a certain amount of credit you have to give the film for trying to rise above the expected, for digging a little deeper than the perfunctory screwball antics of the romantic comedienne in love. When it comes down to it, though, all the talk that these people do (two hours of it!) amounts to the elucidation of no real point. There are a share of clever moments and some that are downright sneaky, there are predictable turning points delivered on time, and the people are pretty consistently good looking. But there’s not a single character to really love and there are a lot to choose from. You need ten characters if you’re trying to save Middle Earth, Gotham City, and possibly Krypton. When you’re trying to save your New Year’s Eve, however, two good ones will probably do.
The Holiday is currently playing in wide release.
By: Amanda Andrade
Published on: 2007-01-02