When someone suggested I do a watch and review for the 2006 film, The Holiday, I admit to being a little nervous. I liked Jack Black in School of Rock, but a romantic Christmas comedy? I wasn’t so sure I could take that. Still, with a cast also consisting of Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Eli Wallach, Edward Burns, and also featuring Rufus Sewell, I decided to give it a try.
The film was written and directed by Nancy Meyers who had her directorial debut in 1998 with The Parent Trap (which will make sense early in the film) and also directed the comedies What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated. She has had a good career directing romantic comedies with A-list actors.
Iris (Winslet), a columnist for The Daily Telegraph in London, is heartbroken when the man she loves announces he is engaged to someone else. She wants nothing more than to get away from her life in London for the holidays. Meanwhile, Amanda (Diaz), a movie trailer editor in Los Angeles, breaks up with her boyfriend (Burns) after he admits to having an affair. Amanda goes online to look for the perfect holiday and finds Iris’s house in the UK. After inquiring about renting the house, Iris tells Amanda it is only available for a complete house swap: house, cars, everything. Amanda agrees.
The two complete the switch and while Iris manages to get comfortable quickly in Amanda’s spacious estate, Amanda is having a harder go at it. What’s worse for Amanda, is that due to a traumatic incident in her past, she hasn’t been able to actually cry for many years. Iris’s brother, Graham (Law), unexpectedly enters the house after a night of drinking and Amanda agrees to let him spend the night. She agrees and one thing leads to another as they kiss and then sleep together.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Iris meets Amanda’s neighbor Arthur (Eli Wallach), an award-winning screenwriter. Iris finds out the Writer’s Guild would like to honor him but he doesn’t answer them because he can barely walk and doesn’t want sympathy. Iris decides to help him get more mobility by helping him swim and exercise. Meanwhile, Miles (Jack Black) – a composer – stops by and after his girlfriend is seen with another man, he too is now single. And we have the plot for the rest of the movie.
We follow the two couples on opposite ends of the world as they explore their new relationships. This is done very well and in a creative manner since it is night time for one when it is day for the other. Everything is going in a predictable manner until Miles’s former girlfriend wants to get back together. He leaves Iris in a hurry to go to talk to her. Meanwhile, Amanda visits Graham and finds out he has two daughters who are excited their dad has a new “girl” friend.
Everybody resolves their last hiccup and the film ends with Amanda and Iris flying to the UK to spend New Year’s Eve with Amanda and Graham.
Besides seeing Jack Black in a comedy, the two-and-a-half-hour running time also had me skeptical. Add to the mix the “everybody is single and/or breaking up” theme and throw in even a single parent, there really is nothing new or imaginative about this film, but it was a fun ride and easy watch. All of the actors did a very good job, and the insertion of movie-trailer voiceovers in Amanda’s storyline was a great surprise every time. Speaking of trailers, I mentioned The Parent Trap at the beginning of this review – one of the trailers Amanda edited was for a film starring Lindsay Lohan and James Franco – both of whom have seen their careers and image decline since then, so it was rather comical seeing them together in an action trailer.
The film was shot quite well and we definitely get the sense of scenery changes between Iris’s house and Amanda’s. What struck me as odd, however, was just how quickly Iris adapted to the new house. When she arrived she seemed like a fish out of water in such a big house, but only a few minutes in, she had perfect makeup and was looking like a movie star just the same as Amanda. Maybe she had access to Amanda’s makeup as well.
The breakout scenes, for me, were the scenes with the aging screenwriter Arthur. The way Iris helps Arthur is very endearing, and at points, it almost seems she will end up with him instead of Miles. A cameo by another A-lister in the video store was a nice touch as well. Ah, 2006 when we actually still had video stores.
All in all, if you are looking for a holiday film with little surprises with actors you have grown to know and love, I recommend The Holiday. It is a little long, but very nicely written, performed, and directed that will leave you in the holiday spirit.