Holiday Movie Month: "The Holiday" Review

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)

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Holiday Movie Month: "The Holiday" Review

Rating: PG-13 (Sexual content, strong language)
Length: 138 minutes
Release Date: December 8, 2006
Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Genre: Comedy, Romance

Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet star in this romantic comedy about two successful women who are woefully unlucky in love. Winslet portrays Iris Simpkins, a wedding columnist who is hopelessly in love with a colleague who barely even notices she exists. When she realizes that her workplace crush is newly engaged, she decides to give up on her ambitions to find love in London. Meanwhile, Diaz portrays Amanda Woods, a movie creative who just went through a nasty breakup with her boyfriend Ethan. Both women take to the Internet in search of a way to remedy their hopeless romantic situations and discover a website that allows foreign exchange for adults looking to experience a holiday in another country. Amanda and Iris trade houses for the holidays and temporarily take over one another's lives.

When Amanda flies across the ocean to stay in Iris' lovely Surrey home, it doesn't take long before she meets a dashing editor named Graham. The two have a whirlwind romance and quickly fall in love, making plans to stay together. Iris barely has time to settle in to her new Los Angeles abode before she meets Amanda's next-door neighbor, a charming elderly writer named Arthur. Arthur takes an immediate interest in helping Iris sort through the shambles of her love life and quickly realizes that the problem isn't where she lives but rather that she has little to no confidence and belief in herself. Encouraged by Arthur and her newfound self-esteem, Iris meets a musician named Miles. The two experience a whirlwind romance, and all seems to be going well until a few twists and turns shake things up for their idyllic little arrangement.

"The  Holiday" is a brilliant addition to the romantic comedy genre, but it has a flavor all its own. While similar comedies rely on clich├ęs and shallow plotlines, "The Holiday" is equal parts feel-good drama and intelligent plot. The writing is a set above recent films of its type, and the final plot twist is impossible to see coming. While the writing and plot give the film a solid structure, the acting is what gives it its signature depth. Diaz and Winslet show off their dramatic chops as two romantic characters who are surprisingly deep. Iris may seem like she has it all together on the outside and is simply unlucky in love, but Winslet portrays just how fragile and lacking in confidence she really is.

Meanwhile, Amanda is a bubbly and vivacious character whose charm serves her well wherever she travels. Her relationship with Graham is remarkably charming, complicated only by the fact that he happens to be Iris's brother. Whether the relationship between the two will survive Amanda's inevitable return to America is a major catalyst for the more dramatic elements of the film. As always, Cameron Diaz brings her sunny disposition and quick wit to the character of Amanda, adding plenty of brevity and charm to the film's heavier moments when needed.

Not to be forgotten, Jude Law and Jack Black more than hold their own as the romantic leads in this film. Law plays Graham, Amanda's reserved yet charming love interest. He plays the English gentleman with perfect sophistication and class, adding a grounding element to the film. Meanwhile, Black brings his signature comedy to the film with a dramatic flair as Miles, the film composer and Iris's love interest. Iris and Miles come from completely different worlds, and even though it seems at first glance that she is out of his league, he proves himself with a surprising amount of humility and kindness. While Amanda and Graham have a fast-paced love affair, Miles and Iris's love is more gradual and sensitive, striking a beautiful contrast between the two couples and continuing the theme of people who are just slightly out of their element. The major theme of the movie is how even the smallest change can turn your entire life on its head.

Even if you have sworn off romantic comedies, "The Holiday" holds enough charm and intelligence to reel you back in. Diaz and Winslet steal the show in a tale that gives a casual nod to the classic theme of life swapping. Both women believe that the grass is greener on the other side, and in a surprising twist, they just might be right. There is more to this whirlwind romantic film than meets the eye, making it the perfect addition to any comedy collection.

Rating: 3 out of 5