Tuesday 28 June 2016

Movie Review: The Holiday (2006)

A Christmastime romantic comedy with two love stories unfolding simultaneously in London and Los Angeles, The Holiday offers soothing vanilla entertainment and achieves all its objectives in an attractive, star-filled package.

In London, the emotionally fragile Irene (Kate Winslet) works for the Telegraph newspaper and harbours a hopeless crush on work colleague Jasper (Rufus Sewell). He keeps her hanging as a side-interest while pursuing romance and marriage with another woman. In Los Angeles, the independent and confident but emotionally cold Amanda (Cameron Diaz) is a producer of movie trailers; she kicks out her live-in boyfriend Ethan (Edward Burns) once she discovers his infidelity. With Christmas approaching, both Irene and Amanda decide on a break. They connect online and agree to a two week house exchange.

Amanda is quickly lonely at Irene's small and quaint cottage in the English countryside, but her mood brightens considerably when the half-drunk Graham (Jude Law), Irene's brother, unexpectedly stumbles through the door. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles Irene meets her next door neighbour, the elderly Hollywood screenwriter Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach). She also connects with Miles (Jack Black), a film score composer. Amanda and Graham jump into a physical relationship before settling down to get to know each other, while Irene is more circumspect. She helps Arthur rediscover his passion while he helps to rebuild her self-esteem, and she starts to befriend the jovial Miles.

Directed and co-written by Nancy Meyers, The Holiday is an inoffensive and high quality double romantic comedy. Within the confines of the genre, the premise is reasonably fresh, the humour understated, the performances generally excellent, and the film oozes a rich syrup of distinction.

Meyers gains the bonus of two stories in one movie, and avoids many of the cringe inducing cliches that often plague romantic comedies. The Holiday has are no contrived misunderstandings and no sudden conflicts between the lovers that need to be resolved before the end credits. Instead the romance progressions are remarkably calm, and the film offers four mature, life-tested adults (and one older gentleman) grappling with disappointments, opportunities and affairs of the heart.

The film finds a few highlight gems. When Amanda decides to track down Graham at his house and uncovers his backstory, what she finds is a perfectly imperfect set-up. Graham is at once made more real and more complicated, offering much more than Amanda bargained for and redefining her parameters of what love can mean. The comedy highlight is a three-way overseas phone call with Iris discovering the hazards of call waiting while trying to simultaneously communicate with her brother and Amanda.

Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law deliver accomplished and committed performances, with Diaz perhaps emerging with the best glow and impeccable comic timing. Jack Black suffers in comparison and is often out his league, not helped by an underwritten role. Eli Wallach adds a potent shot of veteran talent, as his Arthur Abbott takes on the task of educating Irene about the power that resides within women through Hollywood's back catalogue.

At 15 minutes over two hours, the film is overlong, and suffers from a gloss that may be too shiny, situations and locales a little too perfect, and characters too likeable. But The Holiday is a greeting card of a film, the type that warms the heart and induces a smile when delivered with care and genuine affection.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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