By Christian DiMartino
Nancy Meyers’ movies are essentially cinematic comfort food. The stories are light, the people are pretty, as are the places. It doesn’t require a ton of mental effort to sit through a Nancy Meyers comedy, and it helps that she’s really such a terrific writer. She manages to not only write some killer dialogue, but she also manages to write characters who are likable and entertaining, in scenarios that are likable and entertaining. Hence, why I’ve always gone for Meyers’ The Holiday.
The verdict on this film appears to be pretty split. Some find it gooey and dated, others surrender to its charm. I fall into the latter, though it can be said that it does have its faults. To me though they don’t matter, because even at two hours and fifteen minutes, which is absurdly long for a rom-com, it’s as light as a feather, and she manages to bring us likable characters, played by loveable actors. Yes, it doesn’t cover anything particularly new, and chances are the outcome of the movie will be predicted before it’s even started, but there’s such an old timey charm to The Holiday that makes it work. With the exception of a few sexual references, this could’ve easily have been released in 1949, and I mean that in a good way.
Set at Christmas time (why else are we here?), the film follows two very different women on opposite sides of the globe. Iris (Kate Winslet) lives in England, and is completely heartbroken and distraught after the love of her life, one Jasper Bloom (Rufus Sewell, always playing a BAH-STARD, as the English would say), gives her false hope, and then immediately announces he’s engaged. Jasper Bloom, great name, the bloody BAH-STARD. Anyways, Amanda (Cameron Diaz) is a movie trailer editor living in California, and after a breakup it dawns on her that she really, truly needs to rest. Both of them could really use a vacation, and thus they find each other, thanks to the power of the internet, and decide to switch homes for two weeks.
When Iris arrives in California, she swoons, seeing as its totally an upgrade from her small English cottage (which is, my lord, adorable). Amanda is less impressed in England, and pretty much gives up hope on this trip. That is, until she meets Iris’ brother Graham (Jude Law), who stumbles into the house drunk on the first night. Immediately, there is something brewing. A relationship also blooms between Iris and Miles (Jack Black), a composer for those trailers Amanda cooks up, and Iris also forms a friendship with an aging screenwriter (Eli Wallach).
So yes, you know where this all must end up, but personally it’s never bothered me getting there, because Meyers has a gift with dressing this material up. It’s beautiful to look at, with each location feeling exotic. It also features a drastically underrated score by Hans Zimmer. It’s also just a nice movie, and lord knows those are hard to come by. It’s all perfectly harmless, and it goes down easy.
There are corny moments, much of them on the Iris side of the story. Winslet doesn’t have a false note in the performance- she couldn’t in her sleep. Yet not every moment between her and Wallach works, and allow me to address another elephant in the room. Winslet and Black are two very fine actors, both of which I enjoy dearly on their own terms. On screen, they don’t do anything wrong… but it is kind of hard to sell them as a couple. Miles is a great choice for Iris, whose taste in men hasn’t been wise. Yet for whatever reason, they never fully convince. Or maybe I’m just an A-hole, but they’re still likable characters.
Diaz and Law, on the other hand, work pretty well together. God, I miss Cameron Diaz. I want to reach out to her and ask her how she’s doing. Except I’m a fat loser and she would have nothing to do with me in reality. Anyways, she’s really funny here, and I particularly like the sequences where she envisions her life re-cut as a movie trailer. On top of that, Law has never been more charming.
Is The Holiday as masterpiece? No, but it’s the kind of movie you can cozy up to with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate, and feel nothing but comfort. Meyers knows her niche, she knows what movies she wants to make, and she makes them, and well. It’s not normally my kind of thing, but she manages to make it my kind of thing, so that’s something.