Monday, 26 November 2012

Film Review | The Holiday (2006)

On paper, The Holiday is a pretty average Christmas-themed rom-com, looking as light and fluffy as much of the snow which covers the chocolate-box English countryside in many scenes throughout its running time. But, thanks to a few fortunate additions, it manages to peek its head far enough above the middle-of-the-road line of oblivion to become a little more memorable than most in its genre.

The Holiday is based around the concept of two unlucky-in-love ladies, Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) who swap homes to give themselves a break from their usual surroundings in the lead up to Christmas. So, Iris vacations in Amanda's luxury Hollywood villa, whilst Amanda cozies up in Iris' tranquil cottage set in rural Surrey. However, it's not long before unexpected chances for romance turn up.

In many ways, The Holiday does nothing new. It's obvious from the moment Iris meets the unassuming Miles (Jack Black) and that Amanda finds Iris' brother Graham (Jude Law) on her doorstep in the middle of the night how things are going to end up romance-wise; it's just a matter of director Nancy Meyers playing things out. Things aren't much more original in terms of the culture shock both women experience - Iris unsurprisingly gets hopelessly befuddled with Amanda's keypad-protected security gate, and Amanda predictably drives on the wrong side of the road within a couple of hours of being in England. So far, so forgettable.

And yet The Holiday has a few pleasant surprises within it. First of all, the four leads all put in relatively strong performances. Yes, they're rom-com style performances, but nobody grates (although Diaz comes close once or twice). Jack Black in particular is pleasingly understated in a role, whilst not necessarily challenging, that certainly falls outside his comfort zone. There's also a refreshing subplot involving Eli Wallach as an aging Hollywood writer which allows the film to explore a little, and pay tribute to, the golden age of cinema. It's never anything incredibly deep or layered, but there's enough there to raise this a notch above the usual throwaway fare.

The Holiday isn't a classic, and it's modern fairytale, polished white middle class feel will almost certainly be enough to turn some away. It never threatens to be anything truly memorable, but it certainly does enough to make it lighthearted festive fare worth a watch just once a year.



  1. I have to admit The Holiday is one my favorite all time rom-coms. And I don't usually go in for those. I think what won me over was Eli Wallach's role, as well as Jack Black playing the film scorer. It's all brutally predictable and trite, but I melt over it every time.

    1. Thanks for your comment Jessica - you hit the nail on the head exactly. It does almost nothing new with the rom-com formula, but at the same time manages to do it consistently well to make it a good film of its type. I think all four leads work very well, but agree Black opposite Winslet works particularly nicely. It's soft and sentimental, but there's a charming - almost retro - quality about the whole thing. I can't hate it at all, and I'm *really* not a rom-com fan!