Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None listed.
IT’S been three years since writer-director Nancy Meyers last warmed the cockles of our hearts with the Jack Nicholson romantic comedy-drama Something’s Gotta Give.
But while her latest, The Holiday, lacks the sophistication of that effortless crowd-pleaser, it’s an unapologetically sweet feel-good extravaganza that ticks all the right boxes for the chick flick brigade.
Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet head a starry cast as two love-lorn women who decide to swap houses for Christmas in the hope of finding some respite from their failed relationships.
Hence, Diaz’s workaholic film executive Amanda heads for a picturesque, snow-covered cottage in Surrey determined to put the memory of her cheating ex-boyfriend (Edward Burns) behind her.
And Winslet’s Daily Telegraph columnist Iris heads to LA hell-bent on getting over her infatuation for a roguish colleague (Rufus Sewell) who has just announced his engagement to someone else.
Needless to say, both find love in unexpected places. For Amanda, romance comes knocking (literally) in the form of Iris’s drunken brother Graham (Jude Law), who frequently uses his sister’s cottage as a place to sleepover after visiting the pub.
While Iris hooks up with sensitive film composer Miles (Jack Black) who also displays a worrying tendency to fall for the wrong women.
Helping Iris along the way is veteran screenwriter Arthur (Eli Wallach) who, in turn, is helped to rediscover his own self-worth.
For all of its good intentions, however, The Holiday isn’t quite the overwhelming success it’s designed to be.
The sweetness will grate with some while Meyers’s screenplay includes some odd choices that aren’t always successful.
The first 20 minutes, in particular, are packed with the type of contrivances that require a major suspension of disbelief (such as Winslet’s blind devotion to Sewell), while continued nods to the film industry send out mixed messages.
Meyers, herself, seems obsessed with wanting to make her leading women cry – a ploy that marred even Diane Keaton’s performance in Something’s Gotta Give.
Here, it’s Winslet who’s reduced to screaming hysterically at every opportunity, while Diaz must wrestle with the notion that she hasn’t been able to shed a tear since childhood (audiences will guess that she’s in for a good blub at some point).
Numerous asides at the expense of the current state of the film industry also feel smug and self-congratulatory particularly as, on the one hand, Meyers seems to be lamenting the new emphasis placed on opening weekend box office returns while on the other making sure that her film conforms to the strict criteria needed to guarantee a hit.
A running gag involving Diaz’s life, as relayed by a mock film trailer running through her mind, is also unnecessary.
But for all of its numerous faults, The Holiday does contain some charming moments.
The performances are very polished, especially from Wallach who injects some much-needed class, and it’s good to see Black reining himself in somewhat after the excess of Tenacious D.
There’s also some nice cameos from the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Dustin Hoffman that can’t fail to raise a smile.
The picture-perfect cinematography milks the Christmas context to maximum effect (even if the depiction of quaint England conforms to the American view of it) and there’s a lot to be said for the optimistic nature of proceedings.
If it’s slushy romance you’re seeking, The Holiday provides a suitably guilt-free vacation from the day-to-day toil.
Running time: 2hrs 15mins