Un-merry The Holiday nothing to celebrate

by Beacon Staff • December 6, 2006

There are two things audiences look for in movies these days: unimaginable destinations and scenarios, or a situation to connect and relate to while still feeling that disconnection telling them their life isn't quite as pathetic as the characters on the screen.

The Holiday, starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black, doesn't provide either.

While movies tend to stick to one end of the spectrum, such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the fantasy world or Love Actually for relating to the audience, The Holiday tries for both ends, failing to reach either destination.

The story, at first sight, does seem quite appealing. Amanda (Diaz) and Iris (Winslet) are so desperate for a break in their lives that they resort to switching homes, with Amanda jet-setting to wintry Surrey, England, and Iris off to sunny Los Angeles.

Of course, the trailer already tells possible viewers the end of the film: each finds love in the other's land, mending each broken heart and tying the two homeowners together at last.

Avoiding popular trends, the movie starts off slow, and remains that way through the entire show. It begins with the stories of the two women, Amanda as a movie trailer producer who breaks up with her boyfriend because he cheated on her, and Iris, the journalist who covers weddings while still trying to get over her own love of three years, who also cheated on her and is engaged to a copyeditor from the same newspaper.

As ravaging as these stories may seem, it doesn't get any better when viewers have to bear Diaz's uncharacteristic anger and rage. Diaz is known for comedies, not dramas, and since she's been America's sweetheart and the girl-next-door for about a decade, she just cannot pull off yelling at her boyfriend and kicking him out of the house.

Then throw in Winslet, who definitely has an upper-hand in the acting field, yet is given a character too weepy to stand. Her over-the-top wail stands as a little comedic relief, whether intended or not, but comes across more as high-school theatre than Hollywood film.

After what seems an eternity in the just-over-two-hour film, the women finally trade houses and have dissimilar first impressions. Amanda is cool and isolated in a small cottage-like home, while Iris has it rich in an immense abode with swimming pool and all. This is where the men come creeping in.

Jude Law, playing Graham, drunkenly stumbles in on Amanda and the relationship blooms from there. Law's character has plenty of twists and turns, and while Law has a pretty good acting resume, it proves too hard to pull of a character who, in the end, fails to have much depth.

Then comes Eli Wallach (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly) as Arthur, on old man in Iris's new neighborhood who turns out to be an award-winning playwright. Iris forms a bond with Arthur, helping him to get around with a walker while he provides her with advice on how to become her own leading lady. Arthur turns out to be the most sincere character, and draws out the only almost-tear in the whole film.

As in any film, The Holiday also has the nice guy: Jack Black playing film composer Miles. Now at first viewers may be skeptical about Black's role in this film, but he surprises all when he comes out victorious as the most sincere actor in the film next to Wallach. Sure, Black has some cheesy, forced lines, but he comes off as the most believable character.

It's nice to see Winslet continuing a stable career, but one hopes that she follows her normal trend of picking movies with good scripts and better direction. The Holiday should also tell Diaz to stick with comedy (even if they are dark like Being John Malkovich), and Law to continue bonding with those a-little out-there scripts. Black should keep doing more serious roles that throw in a little comedy, cutting down on the physical comedy for which he's known. Writer and director Nancy Meyers can keep trying, but should return to the likes of her earlier films Something's Gotta Give and What Women Want, or even The Parent Trap, which, while not spectacular productions, are a lot more creative and fulfilling than this last attempt.

The Holiday definitely is not for those who like everything indie, but it's also not for those looking for a good romantic comedy. If that's your taste, trying renting You've Got Mail or Out of Sight, both which actually provide some comedy, action and wholesome, believable acting.