The Holiday

If you were to compare rom-coms to bonds, The Holiday would be a treasury bill. Extremely low risk, proportionately low return.

It stars Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet as Amanda and Iris, two beautiful single women on two different continents who decide to swap homes for the Christmas holidays. They’re both looking for a change of venue in order to escape their messed up lives (Iris is hung up over an ex-boyfriend, Amanda can’t sustain any relationship). They switch continents, fall in love (Iris with a composer in LA, Amanda with Iris’ brother), get over their problems and end up happy. The movie, unfortunately, is as prosaic as the above description.

It’s the writing. There’s hardly any humor, not much by way of intelligent or engaging dialogue, and zero depth to the characters. Quite sad, considering the top-notch cast. The acting from the two leads is mostly just ordinary – it seems like the women were on holiday and didn’t feel like working too much. The men fare better than the women. Jude Law brings his trademark charm, and Jack Black dials down the manic energy while retaining his likeability. The most memorable performance of the lot is that of Eli Wallach who plays Arthur, an aging screenwriter whom Iris befriends.

To do it justice, it does get some things right. The way Cameron Diaz sees her own life in trailerspeak, for instance. And bits of her first conversation with Jude Law. And a fleeting glimpse of Dustin Hoffman when Jack Black is discussing the score of The Graduate. Unfortunately, this is too little to save the movie.

On the whole, this isn’t the most memorable holiday you’ll ever have. You won’t be bored to death, but you’re unlikely to remember it for more than a couple of weeks.

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3 thoughts on “The Holiday

  1. Rajendran says:

    For starters, the movie worked for me. I agree on one count that the dialogues could have been packed with more share of humour. Secondly, I felt Jack Black was not utilised to the fullest. His comic abilities were not given a fair share either.

    But on the whole, I thought the characterisation was fine, though on a few occasions, Cameron Diaz went a little overboard. Eli Wallach’s role was charming and at the end of the movie, I went back happy with his lovely,poised and controlled performance and of course the beauty of an aging Winslet.

    I like the way he casually mentions to Kate Winslet – “Oh- so you are from Surrey! Cary Grant was from Surrey” and then to answer her how-do-you-know-that question, his matter-of-fact way of saying – “yeah, he had told me once” was quite well done. And I particularly liked the background score in the film. Once again, like any sports movie, such films have predictable endings but one goes through the process of watching it just to see how they execute it.

  2. I don’t think the characterizations were bad or inconsistent, just too cookie-cutter. I don’t expect to be surprised by the plot in a rom-com, but being surpised by nothing at all isn’t so great.

    Kate Winslet laughed too much, in my opinion. Speaking as a man who could gaze at her for all eternity, I have absolutely no problems with that. But speaking as a grouch who has seen way too many movies that strictly follow the formula, I’d have liked something more. Come on, this is a woman who has more Oscar nominations than anyone her age!

  3. S says:

    Given what you say in the closing sentence, I can’t seem to recall if I’ve seen The Holiday or not, haha.

    I liked the inherent generosity in your estimation that “not being bored to death” can at times speak to a movie’s skill (you also made this point in a review of ‘Fracture,’ I think; a film I’ve yet to see, despite Hopkins’ steely allure). I felt this way after checking out ‘1920 London’ on Netflix last night. (Sharman Joshi is someone I can’t stand the sight of, for reasons unbenownst to me; but the surprising effectiveness of the new-face heroine and the not-bored-to-death-ness that you describe here are what kept me watching).

    Speaking of London and Kate (and your mention of Jude here), I’m reminded of Kate in Jude, that Hardy opus which, like all of Hardy’s opuses, pit the protagonist’s passions against their perceived sense of purpose, in the wake of life and it’s bloody odds. Your comment above on Man vs Grouch strangely felt like a nod to that all too classic conundrum: one vaunts what one wants. 🙂

    And I bet you’re the first one to use rom-com and treasury bonds in the same sentence!

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