Available this week in video and DVD outlets, The Holiday comes from a long line of screwball/romantic comedies. As the title suggests, it is set in"”and its theatrical release was clearly timed for"”the Christmas/New Year season, and its plot involves a number of old memories and new beginnings. In fact, the need to break from the past and embrace (literally) the new is one the movie's prominent themes.
riter/director Nancy Meyers"”perhaps best-known for the similarly structured and themed "Something's Gotta Give"¯"”is served well by a solid cast. Her lead actresses, Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, have very different gifts; happily, they are on screen together for the briefest of moments at the end, though their lives are quite bound up with each other. Her leading men, Jude Law and Jack Black, are also, let's say, remarkably different, in both style and screen personality. Finally, 91-year old Eli Wallach, in a supporting role, embodies the bygone cinematic era to which the current piece pays homage, his screenwriter character speaking for a kind of moviemaking that Meyers clearly wants to emulate.
The work of classic romantic comedies is to get the right lovers together at the end, having got over seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The most obvious ones here are topographic: a continent and an ocean that separate the pairs of lovers at the outset. However, in the age of jet travel, instant messaging, and cell phones, this turns out to be only a minor hindrance. Though the poles of action are in England and Los Angeles, people move between them physically or electronically with surprising ease.
The tougher obstacles are psychological: all four lovers have some sort of "hole,"¯ a shortcoming that needs to be gotten past, gotten over, dealt with. They "meet cute"¯ after London journalist Iris (Winslet) and L.A. film editor Amanda (Diaz) both decide to recover from failed love affairs by swapping houses for two weeks in December. Iris basks in the sun, giant pool, and au courant upscale manse Amanda owns. Her California Girl counterpart just about reneges on her end, though, having experienced the joys of hauling her own bags through the snow to a country cottage apparently not blessed by central heating. In time, they both meet Mr. Right-- Iris's brother, Graham (Law), and Amanda's collaborator, Miles (Black)-- but it takes a while for both pairs to sort out their lives and ring in the New Year properly.
The film has a problem common to many where the writer and the director are the same person: it's talky, sometimes lingering way too long on a plot point already made or stretching a bit of dialogue past the point of dramatic interest. (Amanda credibly tells Graham that he's the first man she's met who likes to talk more than she does.) We don't quite believe that the intelligent Winslet and Black would be so quickly infatuated, though Diaz and Law"”two of filmdom's Most Beautiful People"”were clearly Meant to Be.
On the way to its predictable outcome, though, the film's editing keeps up the visual interest, there are a number of good lines (most of them properly given to character/narrator Iris), and some good old-fangled tears are jerked. The Holiday will make a great date flick for those wanting to enjoy the holidays unencumbered by weightier considerations. It's properly rated "PG-13."¯
P.S. Watch for some cameos by actors of both the older and younger generations: they add to the general air of informal fun.