×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Holiday

By now, Nancy Meyers knows exactly what women want and she doubles the formula in "The Holiday." Shrewdly positioned as an attractive mainstream option in a busy Christmas season, this star-laden transatlantic fantasy will prove more than a B.O. match for Meyers' previous hits "What Women Want" and "Something's Gotta Give," helping Sony ring in the new year in fine form.

With:
Amanda - Cameron Diaz Iris - Kate Winslet Graham - Jude Law Miles - Jack Black Arthur - Eli Wallach Ethan - Edward Burns Jasper - Rufus Sewell

By now, Nancy Meyers knows exactly what women want –gorgeous locales, even more gorgeous actors, a sentimental love story calculated to make viewers hug themselves and maybe even each other — and she doubles the formula to generally pleasing but thoroughly unsurprising effect in “The Holiday,” a lavishly overstuffed gift basket of a movie. Shrewdly positioned as an attractive mainstream option in a busy Christmas (and kudos) season, this star-laden transatlantic fantasy will prove more than a B.O. match for Meyers’ previous hits “What Women Want” and “Something’s Gotta Give,” helping Sony ring in the new year in fine form.

Packaging two fanciful romances for the price of one, “The Holiday” introduces two women from opposite sides of the pond, alike only in their mutual bad luck with men. Iris (Kate Winslet) is a sweet-natured London journalist who’s been smitten for years with her caddish co-worker Jasper (Rufus Sewell), while Amanda (Cameron Diaz) is a Los Angeles career woman whose fiercely self-made status has pushed away many a boyfriend, including her latest (Edward Burns).

Flitting between the characters so as to accentuate their differences — Winslet’s Iris is totally adorable, Diaz’s Amanda is a total pill — the pic contrives a serendipitous meeting on the Internet. After some rather unconvincing cyber-chitchat, the two women, both in desperate need of an escape, impulsively agree to swap homes for the holidays.

Some fish-out-of-water comedy ensues, as Iris basks in the luxury of Amanda’s BevHills estate while Amanda, having relocated to the snowy English countryside, has trouble driving on the left side of the street. Amanda gets a pleasant surprise, however, when Iris’ attractive, heavily intoxicated brother Graham (Jude Law) shows up on her doorstep one night and, in a rare moment of spontaneity, she seduces him. (In his sister’s bed, no less. Yuck.)

Iris isn’t nearly so eager to hit the sheets with a stranger, instead striking up a friendship with her new neighbor, veteran screenwriter Arthur Abbott (played by nonagenarian character actor Eli Wallach). The mutually encouraging dialogues between Winslet and Wallach are among the most charming in the film, with the unfortunate side effect that Iris’ real love interest, a sensitive musician named Miles (Jack Black), almost feels shoehorned into the proceedings.

Arthur’s connection to the golden age of Hollywood ushers in references to the great comedies of Preston Sturges and Howard Hawks, as well as Jacques Tati’s “Jour de fete.” (In this wink-wink context, it’s surprising that George Cukor’s superb 1938 picture “Holiday” didn’t rate a mention.) Similarly, Meyers’ entire script adopts a knowing, tongue-in-cheek attitude toward movie convention, having Amanda imagine her life as a series of faux trailers and even giving one character a speech explaining the definition of a “meet-cute.”

Meyers’ characters tend to be more thoughtful and self-aware (or at least more self-conscious) than most, and her dialogue clearly aims for tart sophistication and a certain worldly knowledge about relational mores between men and women.

But this overlong film isn’t nearly as smart as it would like to appear, and it willingly succumbs to the very rom-com cliches it pretends to subvert. Sure enough, unfaithful ex-lovers return, doubts about long-term relationships arise, and surging emotional climaxes arrive right on cue, courtesy of the twinkly, Christmassy score by Hans Zimmer (who even gets a shout-out during the film that’s too smug by half).

In a spirited cast that exudes more collective star wattage than any of Meyers’ earlier vehicles, the Brits easily outshine their Yank counterparts. Winslet weeps and moans without sacrificing her radiance or aud’s sympathy, while the marginally less teary-eyed Law effortlessly piles on the charm in a role that will have some amusing resonances for tabloid readers.

Her jaw tightly set from her opening scene, Diaz at first overplays Amanda’s Type A severity but thaws credibly and movingly in response to Law’s ministrations. Black is in likeably low-key mode (for contrast, see him in the current “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny”), though the role, with its occasional mad flights into musical improv, feels a tad overstretched to accommodate his unique talents.

It would be revealing too much to explain the roles played by tyke thesps Miffy Englefield and Emma Pritchard, suffice it to say that they’re almost criminally adorable.

Pic is lusciously crafted at every level, from Dean Cundey’s flattering cinematography to the even more flattering selection of L.A. and U.K. locations. The sets for Amanda’s swanky manor and Iris’ cozy Cotswold cottage have been meticulously (and, it would seem, deliberately) outfitted to inspire viewer real-estate envy.

The Holiday

Production: A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures and Universal Pictures presentation in association with Relativity Media of a Waverly Films production. Produced by Nancy Meyers, Bruce A. Block. Executive producer, Suzanne Farwell. Directed, written by Nancy Meyers.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Dean Cundey; editor, Joe Hutshing; music, Hans Zimmer; production designer, John Hutman; art director, Dan Webster; set decorators, David Smith, Cindy Carr; set designers, Robert Fechtman, Al Hobbs, Julia Levine, Lauren Polizzi, John Warnke; costume designer, Marlene Stewart; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Petur Hliddal; supervising sound editors, Dennis Drummond, Michael O'Farrell; associate producer, Jennifer Eatz; assistant director, K.C. Colwell; casting, Jane Jenkins, Janet Hirshenson; U.K. casting, Michelle Guish. Reviewed at Sony Studios, Culver City, Nov. 29, 2006. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 135 MIN.

With: Amanda - Cameron Diaz Iris - Kate Winslet Graham - Jude Law Miles - Jack Black Arthur - Eli Wallach Ethan - Edward Burns Jasper - Rufus SewellWith: Miffy Englefield, Emma Pritchard, Sarah Parish, Shannyn Sossamon, Bill Macy, Shelley Berman, Kathryn Hahn, John Krasinski.

More Film

  • Kevin Tsujihara

    Kevin Tsujihara's Ouster Kicks Off a Week of Major Disruption in the Media Business

    The sudden ouster of Warner Bros. Entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara kicked off what is likely to go down as one of the most extraordinary weeks in Hollywood history, spelling enormous turmoil and transition across the media landscape. In addition to the news about Tsujihara, which comes amid a wider shake-up of leadership at AT&T’s WarnerMedia, [...]

  • Buddha in Africa

    More than Half of Films at Hot Docs Film Festival Are Directed By Women

    More than half of the films playing at Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, are directed by women, the Canadian event said Tuesday. The festival’s 26th edition, which runs April 25-May 5, will screen 234 films, with 54% of the directors being women. In the competitive International Spectrum program, notable films receiving their world [...]

  • Korean Distributors Fight for Box Office

    Korean Distributors Fight for Box Office Market Share

    Korean distributors are having to fight ever harder for their share of Korea’s theatrical market share. Threats on the horizon include a slide in the performance of local movies, consolidation, the arrival of new players and the challenge from streaming services. South Korea’s theatrical box office is now bigger than that of France or Germany despite [...]

  • Korean Distributors Learn to Downsize in

    Korean Distributors Learn to Downsize in Saturated Market

    In 2018, the Korean film business stumbled, as local films made with blockbuster budgets and targeting the usual high seasons of Chuseok and Christmas last year failed to deliver blockbuster earnings.  So Korean distributors have embraced some tactics to enhance their bottom lines.  Genre films “Monstrum,” “Fengshui,” “The Negotiation,” “Take Point,” “Swing Kids” and “Drug King” [...]

  • 'Boonie Bears' Creator Fantawild Producing 'Realm

    FilMart: 'Boonie Bears' Creator Fantawild Skews Older With 'Realm of Terracotta'

    Fantawild, the Chinese entertainment group behind the widely popular “Boonie Bears” animated franchise, is for the first time planning to target slightly older viewers with a new IP, “Realm of Terracotta.” Intended for teenagers, the adventure story is expected to hit theaters this summer. Fantawild has produced six “Boonie Bears” films in just seven years, [...]

  • Hong Kong Industry Executives Seek Clarity

    FilMart: Hong Kong Industry Executives Plead for Clarity on Mainland Chinese Tax Policies

    At a time of heightened scrutiny of tax affairs in China’s entertainment sector, even industry veterans in Hong Kong are struggling to figure out how to operate in the new financial environment and pleading for more clarity from the Chinese government. Hong Kong produces about 60 films a year, three-quarters of which are typically co-productions [...]

  • IQIYI Plans Summer Release for Animated

    IQIYI Plans Summer Release for Animated 'Spycies'

    IQIYI Motion Pictures, the film production and investment arm of Chinese streaming leader iQIYI, will release animated feature “Spycies” in China this summer, and overseas shortly afterwards. “Spycies” is a Sino-French co-production – a rarity as far as animated films are concerned – and the first animated film that iQIYI has co-produced with foreign filmmakers. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content