Is your job too busy? Is the man of your dreams a despicable rat bastard? Do you need to escape? Why not swap houses with an equally depressed, conflicted, beautiful 30-something? When L.A. native, Amanda (Cameron Diaz), contacts English cottage-owner, Iris (Kate Winslet), she will only agree to a Christmas-time house swap if there are no men in Iris’ village. How is it that swearing off men always leads to finding the perfect guy?
What do you think is going to happen? You’re most probably right! In The Holiday two women swap lives and discover what they never had time for in their previous surroundings: true love. *Sigh.* On Amanda’s first night, Iris’ brother, Graham (Jude Law), wanders into her house completely unannounced and totally, handsomely, smashingly drunk. So much for “There are no men in my village.” Amanda’s story may unfold exactly as we predict, but Iris plays a slightly different tune. Unlike running into Jude Law, Iris’ first encounter in L.A. is with the lovably, nerdy charmer, Miles (Jack Black). Her first real friend, however, and her raison d’être in The Holiday, is Arthur (Eli Wallach), an elderly neighbour with an impressive history in the film business. Iris hangs out with Arthur and his golden-age pals while Miles tootles around being a dork. The idea of splitting the story between Iris and Amanda is fun, but I tended to wander off in search of snacks whenever Amanda’s segments came on.
Amanda’s big thing is that she’s physically incapable of crying, but she makes up for it by waving every other emotion around like a lit flare gun. Iris, meanwhile, can’t stop crying – and you absolutely love her for it. She’s such a pathetic push-over whose actions are surprisingly well-justified by feelings of unrequited love for the classic jerk. If Iris were played by anyone other than Kate Winslet, the character would not work. Iris is weak, damaged, wistful, and a slave to her emotions, but every tear makes you want to give her a hearty “There, there” while quietly laughing at her reactions to everyday life. Unlike Amanda’s one-dimensional woe-is-me puppet show, Iris shows kindness, innocent enthusiasm, and gratefulness for the little things in life. She tries to put her depression aside by helping others. Friends loving friends turns out to be a much more compelling story than the American girl finding love and whining about having to go home in a few weeks.
If you’re cleaning the house and want something on in the background, The Holiday is a great way to go. There really isn’t much to it. The sets are limited to two houses, an airplane, and a bar. The “comedy” part of this rom-com stems from Miles’ antics, Arthur’s old-man jokes, and Amanda’s cartoonish facial expressions, while the “romantic” part is pretty self-explanatory. There isn’t much to critique because there isn’t much else there. The Holiday is a 3/10.