Starring: Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black
Directed by Nancy Meyers
’Tis the season for a nice romantic comedy with that special someone. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to be the Grinch, because writer/director Nancy Meyers’ The Holiday is not it.
I think the picture strives to have the heart, humor and wit of Love Actually, or even Bridget Jones’ Diary, but the constant in-house jokes and commentary about showbiz get old fast. They lessen the emotional impact toward the characters, and they took me out of the film, making this flick have more in common with America’s Sweethearts or The Player than anything else.
Throughout the film, the story is slowly intercut between Amanda (Diaz), a movie trailer maker who lives in L.A., and Iris (Winslet), a journalist living in a cottage on the outskirts of London. At first they’re in a rut, trying to get over relationships, and men in general.
When each swap houses for two weeks over the holidays, both think this will be just the thing to regain their independence. But, each runs into new men, with their own set of problems. Amanda finds Iris’ brother, Graham (Law), a book editor, and Iris finds Miles (Black), a film composer who’s friends with Amanda’s ex.
Can both women find solace in the new men in their lives, or will they both have new reasons for sorrow?
There’s also a subplot in which Iris runs into an elderly neighbor named Arthur Abbott, played by the great Eli Wallach, who gives the best performance in the film. However, his character?a retired screenwriter?serves only as commentary on how Hollywood films these days are made by studio conglomerates whose only goal is to rake in as much money as possible on opening weekends.
“Box-office numbers are spout out like baseball scores,” says Abbott. This may be true, but to the laymen and laywomen who are going to watch a romantic comedy, it’s an unnecessary diversion from the main relationships.
In the beginning, the audience doesn’t yet know what Amanda does for a living, so it is quite startling when an action movie trailer appears on the silver screen (I thought something was wrong with the projector), but afterwards Amanda is revealed to be editing one together. I’ll admit, laughter ensued, but as the film progresses there are three to four more times that the audience is interrupted by Don LaFontaine (the voice of movie trailers) as he narrates scenarios that Amanda perceives her life to be going through. A key one, which I won’t spoil, is a real emotion killer.
Also, there are cameos by other celebrities who are recognized as themselves. A key note to screenwriters?don’t recognize celebrities as their real-life counterparts in a film unless the film is a parody, because it takes away from the imagination and is often trite.
If that weren’t enough, the lack of chemistry from any of the leads, the lack of believing that these actors could be these characters and the miscasting all together make watching The Holiday like getting coal for Christmas.