U.S. Release Date:
December 8, 2006
Distributor: Sony / Columbia
Director: Nancy Meyers
Writer: Nancy Meyers
Producer: Nancy Meyers
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Rufus Sewell, Edward Burns, John Krasinski, Shannyn Sossamon
Running Time: 2 hours and 16 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (sexual content and some strong language)
At the height of The Holiday, one of the romantic leads proposes that it's time to "celebrate being young and alive." Yes, 'tis certainly the season to smile and, for the most part, writer and director Nancy Meyers comes through with another happy, gooey confection.
Not up to the standards of the wondrous life comedies In Her Shoes and The Family Stone, Meyers repeats her Something's Gotta Give approach with stars as broad characters in attractive settings. Look for more knit sweaters and listen for sweeping melodies. Watching this fluff is like listening to Andy Williams' "Happy Holidays" in the grocery store; one cannot resist going along.
Overwrought, harmless and affable, The Holiday gives us two lovesick women who swap homes for the holidays and find the love of their lives before you can say "Happy New Year." The ditzy blonde (Cameron Diaz) lives the swimming pool life in L.A. and runs a company that makes movie trailers. Like almost everything else about The Holiday, she is about as believable as flying reindeer.
Kate Winslet is finally allowed to smile without dying by the closing credits as a wounded Englishwoman, jilted by her lover (Rufus Sewell). Her print journalist is real and beautiful. When she throws open a window after turning on the gas, slapping some sense into herself with the mantra, "low point, low point," she practically glows.
The first half of this puff piece works in spite of itself—the script by Meyers borders on fantasy—but it's kneaded with honesty and based on the enticing notion that there is someone out there—somewhere—for everyone. Schmaltzy and slow to close, it survives on its stars and scenery.
The biggest surprise is Jude Law as Winslet's brother. Recalling Albert Finney in Two for the Road (though Diaz is no Audrey Hepburn), his tousled British lover combines naughty and nice to supremely good effect. When his tipsy book editor drops by his sister's country cottage and instead finds Diaz, a playful chase is on.
Diaz is more than a handful, complicating everything with nonstop talking. Bruised as a child by her parents' divorce, she is unable to let her inhibitions go. Whether Diaz pulls it off is open to interpretation, but Law makes it interesting enough for both of them.
Meanwhile, in California, poor Winslet tries to lose the thought of Sewell's cad, find her ego and enjoy the simple pleasures of sunshine, sleeping in and living in a house hard-wired with top technology (and Sony product placements).
Lonely, forlorn Winslet finds solace in the company of an old writer played by Eli Wallach, who nearly steals the picture as a ninety-something Hollywood geezer who knew Cary Grant and isn't past peeking at Winslet in her bathing suit. She also makes friends with a film composer (Jack Black) and his actress girlfriend.
Cute dogs, romantic montages, sugary voiceovers, all the predictable parts work according to plan without creating too cozy an atmosphere. Laughs are sprinkled throughout—including bits with Diaz imagining her life in movie trailers—and, except Black, whose character alternates between an appealingly geeky composer who loves old movies and a humorlessly manic comedian, all works and ends well.
Though Meyers takes too long to wrap it up, The Holiday stands squarely under the mistletoe, warming the heart with sincere performances from Law, Wallach and Winslet—and with a couple of pleasant surprises.
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