The Holiday **
I must say that I am extremely disappointed with Nancy Meyers for coming up with something as conventional and contrived as "The Holiday." In the past she has come up with some fun and witty romantic plots. In "What Women Want" she gave Mel Gibson the power to read what women were thinking, and it resulted in a very enjoyable romance flick. And then there was "Something's Gotta Give," where she transformed Jack Nicolson into a suave and charming romantic lead-and she also made the point that you don't stop dating at a certain age. And then there is "The Holiday," which doesn't only tell one contrived Hollywood romance plot, but two of them. After seeing one painfully contrived love scene, I got to see it all over again a few minutes later! What fun!
"The Holiday' begins by introducing us to Iris, a sweet and easily lovable British woman played by the beautiful Kate Winslet. Iris has a big problem-she is in love with Jasper, one of her co-workers and also one of her best friends. She has been head over heels for him for two years now, and he seems to be stringing her along. Iris finally hits the deep end when she learns that Jasper is engaged to be married, and she just goes to her house and weeps. Next there is Amanda, played by Cameron Diaz, living in California, who has just broken up with her boyfriend(played by Edward Burns. Ironically he gets his screen credit and then makes his exit less than five minutes later). The two of them are sick of men, and somehow find each other on the Internet. Iris put her home on the Internet for a home exchange, where two people switch houses for a certain amount of time. The only thing that they bring with them is clothes and any valuables. And so Iris and Amanda switch their environments, without ever even seeing each other. Once there, Iris is very excited to be in Amanda's loft, but Amanda is less than thrilled in the snowy cottage of England. Amanda is prepared to return home the following day, until a midnight visit by the very dashing and very drunk, Graham, played here by Jude Law, who often finds excuses to phone in his performances. Graham is Iris' brother, and he has his arrangement where whenever he gets piss drunk he goes to Iris' house to spend the night. Less than five minutes into his visits, the two are making out on the sofa. Back in California, Iris meets Arthur, a veteran Hollywood screenwriter who Iris tries to convince to respond to a message from the Screenwriters Guide to throw a big party for him. She also meets Miles(Jack Black), a film composer who just found out that his actress girlfriend of six months is cheating on him. While in different lands, the two women find love in the strangest of places, and also find reasons to stay.
"The Holiday" is the classic romantic comedy formula times two. The most sapping of the two is the plot between Amanda and Graham. Meyers pads the script with far too many long overdrawn speeches about love, children, and their plans for being together even though they are far away. Whenever they would even hint at returning to England, my teeth were gritting. The problem is that Cameron Diaz is pretty much being the Cameron Diaz we always see, and Jude Law is being the Jude Law that we often see. And out of the two stories, it is safe to say that Iris' trip to California is the far more entertaining, and likable. There is something about Kate Winslet that just lights up the screen. Unfortunately for us, Meyers doesn't seem to care about her as much as Amanda, and the scenes with Iris in them usually run about half the length of the Amanda ones. The story between Miles and Iris is toned down a lot more than the one between Amanda and Graham, but it is still a lot of the same. After we see one development in Amanda's relationship, we see it again a few minutes later with Iris. To try and avoid the viewer feeling dull after they realize they've seen the same story twice, Meyers once again pads the script with the story of Arthur, the vet screenwriter, and the first true friend that Iris makes. Arthur is played by Eli Wallach, and is probably the best character here-and it's a shame that he is only supporting.
"The Holiday" is roughly the same length as every other Nancy Meyers movie-far too long. Her last two films were all close to two hours and twenty minutes, and this one is no exception. Somebody made a comment somewhere that the Arthur subplot slowed the film down, and made it much longer than it should have been. But I think that if they trimmed a bit of the Amanda and Graham plot, which is very easy because there is a lot of material there, everything could have fit into a neat little hour and fifty minute package. There is no need for Meyers to make these ninety minute romantic comedy plots into giant epics. These characters, even the ones I like, were overstaying their welcome. I also would like to give a little credit to Jack Black, who could be a little sappy in a leading male role, but he was funny and given some time to be Jack Black-a scene in a music store is a perfect example of this.
"The Holiday" is laden with romantic comedy cliches-the man with a heart of gold, the vulnerable woman, and even scenes where characters have a little car chase with themselves, giving up and then running up to the person they love. At least the climax in the Winslet story wasn't as sappy, but it was extremely obvious. The thing about Meyers last few films was that even though we all know how they will end up, there was always some kind of original twist in the story in general. "The Holiday' doesn't have any type of original twist, and is pretty much two romantic comedies that we've seen a million times before played by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and then doubles it. Perhaps your cup of tea for an afternoon matinee, but an easy one to wait for the video. I think Meyers needs to go back to the drawing board. As the top female director of romantic comedies, this was a disappointing installment.