I cannot properly explain my attachment to this film. It is certainly not for an advancement in moral lessons or because it’s a charming little journey story through English countryside. What The Holiday does lack, it makes up for by its warm, heartfelt and “real” story-telling abilities. A very “adult” movie with a premise that didn’t have to be, the movie tells one story that barely earned its “parental guidance” rating, and one that definitely needed it.
Work for Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz) is a whole agenda unto itself. As the owner of her own company, Amanda has had a cutting room put into her stylish California home to cut trailers even when she isn’t really working – a way to better fuel her workaholic habits. Not being able to cry since she was fifteen is not coming in very handy right now. She has just found out that her boyfriend has cheated on her with his twenty-something year old receptionist, and he thinks it’s a little weird that his girlfriend isn’t even shedding a tear at the end of their relationship. Irked enough as it is, Amanda kicks the guy out and desperately wishes for a break from her L.A. life. Across the pond, Iris (Kate Winslet) has just the opposite problem occupying her mind. She has loved her now-ex for two years without anything in return. Just after he tries to repair more pieces of their already complicated past, his engagement to the co-worker that he cheated with is announced at their company Christmas party. Going home to her small cottage, Iris cries her eyes out only to get an IM from Amanda. Having advertised her cottage on a rental site, the two of them spontaneously agree to a home exchange for two whole weeks – two whole weeks during which Amanda wants nothing to do with men (Iris assures her that there are no eligible guys in her town) and Iris wants to try and get over the incorrigible Jasper.
Amanda’s quaint English trip starts off with enough boredom that she plans to pack up and head back to the states before even forty eight hours have passed… but that was before she met Graham (Jude Law). Iris finds her trip to be a very freeing experience and, as a result she begins to feel a new independence. While away, she finds herself with two new men in her life; she befriends her elderly neighbor (Eli Wallach), a man who teaches Iris some valuable life lessons, and a happy-go-lucky film composer (Jack Black).
Like so many other titles, I am going to be upfront about his movie: morally, it is reprehensible… and yes, somehow it’s still completely irresistible. Director and screenplay writer Nancy Meyers knows how to hook an audience with a good story that is grounded in the charming characteristics of its characters that may result in fairy-tale endings but somehow don’t come off as sappy endings – at the time. She did it with the re-make of The Parent Trap, she does it with The Holiday and this will not be the last time she does so again. Her skill in the director’s chair and talent with a pen somehow pulls in the viewer without making us roll our eyes in disgust at the billionth re-hashing of a plot that has already been told time and again. As a result, Meyers makes her work seem “all new.”
The Holiday is comprised of many special moments. Just one of which involves a woman going to a man’s house with plans for a romantic evening only to discover that he has kept a secret from her. That minute-and-a-half scene alone makes the movie worth all of the a-moral behavior we have been asked to wade through because it is that charming in its lovely innocence. Choices aside, the characters are still insanely likable – each of them, but it is Iris’ story that is the sweetest. She is the character we are most rooting for to stand up for herself and realize what she wants, and to get her happily-ever-after. The one issue I do have as regards a character is with Graham. He seems to be stereotyped before we are given a more intimate glimpse into his life which is nothing like we are led to believe of him on first impressions – basically, it is a misleading ideal. Rounding out this award-winning cast is also British actor Rufus Sewell (does anyone else know why he always seems to play the jerk!?). Perhaps this isn’t the one romantic comedy we should reach for at the video store, but at its heart, it is a really lovely story that has a cute ending and some poignant moments – and the acting is just as wonderful. It is one ‘holiday’ I don’t regret having taken.
(Rated PG13: two strangers sleep together after knowing each other barely fifteen minutes – they are intimate at least once more [we see her in her undergarments as they converse lying in bed together]. Implications suggest characters get drunk and engage in one-night stands [suggesting that is “love” even just for “one night”]. One brief scene implies suicide. There is some strong profanity [one full f-word and another barely missed use of it; sh*t], some sexual references, and a few British slang words.)