By Ruth Sharpe
If only all home-swaps worked out this well
IT’S CHRISTMASTIME and, thankfully, for cinema-goers who don’t want to sit through yet another Santa Claus movie, there is an alternative. Director Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give) has put together an all-star cast, made up of Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Jack Black, in the romantic settings of Surrey and California, to portray a different take on the yuletide season.
Despite being separated by the Atlantic Ocean, Amanda (Diaz) and Iris (Winslet) share the same dilemma: they’ve both been disappointed by the men in their lives, Ethan (Burns) and Jasper (Sewell), and are now facing a dull and lonely Christmas.
After the two women meet online however, they decide to join forces and help each other out. They will swap houses for the holidays, hoping new experiences will result in less glum holiday depression. Amanda, Los Angeles resident and owner of a movie-trailer company, will stay at Iris’ home in rural England and Iris, a journalist for The Daily Telegraph, will live in Amanda’s home in the States.
Thus begins a long, but strangely lulling story, during which Amanda falls for Iris’ dreamy brother Graham (Law), while Iris slowly comes around to the charm of a film composer named Miles (Black). In a subplot, Iris manages to charm her next door neighbour, an old Hollywood screenwriter, played by an unrecognisable but endearing Eli Wallach.
The Holiday hits all its expected marks of a chick flick, touching issues such as female empowerment and learning to trust again. Meyers’ films are renowned for being slow, but the pace does suit the atmosphere of the film and the extra time lets the characters develop a little deeper than in your average comedy.
Winslet’s character is a bumbling, self-pitying mess, but underneath you just know she has romantic heroine potential. Cameron Diaz is equally adept at playing a brittle, self-involved Hollywood type and makes Amanda convincing, if not altogether likeable.
The strangest casting choice, of course, is Jack Black as a romantic lead. With a lesser partner, Black’s trademark mania, might have felt out of place, but Winslet’s acting versatility gives Black’s nuttiness room to resonate.
Jude Law is anything but nutty, but he’s really attractive, so somehow he gets away with just being corny. Most importantly, there is strong chemistry among the four stars and well written characterisation.
As much as anything, The Holiday is a movie about how changing your location can change your life. During the season when the “home for the holidays” theme is drummed into our head, there’s something to be said for the notion of travel as a curative.
RATING: * * *
* * reasonable
* * * entertaining
* * * * very good
* * * * * outstanding