Best Chick Flicks -The Holiday
The Holiday - A Star-Studded Chick Flick
The Holiday was released for the Christmas market in December 2006 and does its job as a not so run of the mill Christmas movie by being a first rate chick flick as well - seasonal and special.
When the movie opens, Iris (Kate Winslet) has discovered that her long-time unrequited but occasional booty-call, Jasper (Rufus Sewell) has gotten engaged.
Christmas lies ahead and once again, she is alone in her gorgeous little cottage which should be being shared by two.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Amanda (Cameron Diaz) is languishing in a sumptuous Beverly Hills mansion and is also unhappy with the man in her life, the incorrigible Ethan (Ed Burns).
Amanda is unhappy and resigned to the end of her relationship; Iris is all sweet and heartbroken - the opening scenes of the movie set up the rest of the movie - two unhappy women not looking forward to spending the holidays alone in their own homes, so near to their former lovers.
Iris' narrative is that of a well read woman (a journalist in fact) who ponders Shakespeare's quotes, 'Journey's end in lovers' meeting' and 'Love is blind' and finds the latter fits the bill in her case. She has loved the same man for years and he has dipped in and out of her life, never ever committing to her. His betrothal to another woman is the final heartbreaking straw and Iris cannot face Christmas at home. 'The Holiday' is almost a holiday from her own sad life.
So in a wonderful piece of symmetry, Iris and Amanda both place ads offering a house swap for the Christmas vacation and end up on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
And so each flies away from heartache and torment and the events which ensue will become the focus for 'The Holiday'.
The Holiday in Hollywood - Iris
So poor Iris, jilted by Jasper flies to LAX and is astonished to find Amanda's house swap involves a rather large mansion up in the Hollywood Hills.
Not only that but she is surrounded by creative people - her favourite type.
Writer and Director Nancy Meyer could not ask for a better female co-lead in Kate Winslet for The Holiday whose acting is so naturalistic that viewers automatically associate with her kind hearted heartbroken soul. Winslet seems to do very little in her acting - she is able to convince us that she IS Iris.
She befriends lonely neighbour Arthur, actually a famous screenwriter and makes him feel young again. Jack Black provides the romance for Winslet but it is a protracted affair as he too is recovering from heartbreak at the hands of a pretty heartless ex-girlfriend.
If you're used to seeing Jack Black in 'School of Rock' or 'Tenacious D' then prepare yourself for a shock - he is very low-key in The Holiday and this takes some getting used to. I kept waiting for the laughs to ensue but Black is surprisingly tender in the role of Miles, a musician who writes for the movies and writes music for Amanda's trailers, hence his turning up at Amanda's house and finding Iris in situ.
On the plus side, Winslet is so good that she genuinely seems to start falling for this man - so very different from her ex-lover, Jasper, who makes a reappearance in The Holiday on her side of the Atlantic in another attempt at an ill-timed booty call. The sequence with Rufus Sewell is perfectly executed and comes just at the right time in the movie - will she, won't she?
This time though, led by Arthur's wisdom and Miles' slow-burning adoration for her, she resists temptation. She realises that she could choose a different future with this lovely musician and leave Jasper to his womanising.
The relationship in Hollywood between Iris and Arthur is very touching and Winslet and Eli Wallach clearly have a strong screen chemistry. In many respects, this additional platonic relationship is the best of all, perhaps because it brings Iris to a better understanding of herself and what she needs for herself.
The Holiday in England - Amanda
Amanda played by Cameron Diaz is a lot more feisty than Iris and going to England is a complete change for her too. In the small Surrey town, she can just disappear. And that is all she really wants.
She is used to Hollywood and being on the arm of a top producer, played by Ed Burns that her ability to disappear into the wintry Surrey countryside comes as a welcome distraction.
Her first evening alone in Iris' cottage is spent eating biscuits and drinking wine. She does not venture far in the awful weather and settles down in this small space, happy with her decision to travel to England.
The appearance of Graham, Iris' brother crashing at Iris' place after a night on the tiles leads Amanda into a romance she did not anticipate.
Jude Law is surprisingly good as Graham, both good looking and charming and director, Meyer throws in the added nugget of his being a widower too. The relationship between Amanda and Graham stutters at first but then flourishes thanks to Amanda's re-evaluation of her own life.
She is a movie trailer maker, used to slick image and promotion. Can she really live outside of this unreal world and just settle into a life with a widower with a small daughter? We see Amanda have her edges smoothed out by falling in love with Graham and Diaz and Law are good together on screen.
The Holiday - Romance, Conflict, Friendship and Christmas!
Some critics have accused Nancy Meyer of including too much sentimentality in 'The Holiday' but this is a Christmas movie and a Christmas movie without a little bit of the mushy stuff would not be right.
Meyer has made no apologies for 'The Holiday' being a chick flick with a bit of schmaltz and certainly its many fans would probably say that's what raises it above some other chick flicks - it is not just about romance. It has humour, but not the laugh out loud kind. It has two unconventional friendships with Amanda contemplating the role of step-mother to Graham's daughter, Sophie and Iris making a good friend in Eli Wallach's Arthur - who is an old man who falls completely under her spell but gives her some great advice about not selling herself short.
Arthur '....why is a beautiful girl like you spending Christmas in a stranger's house and on top of that, spending Saturday night with an old Ka-Ka like me?'
Iris ' ....I wanted to get away from an ex-boyfriend who got engaged and forgot to tell me.'
Arthur 'He let you go. This is not hard to figure out. Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have best friends. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend.'
And that's when Iris realises she needs to be someone's leading lady - all from the words of an old Hollywood screenwriter - a coincidence? Of course not.
Meyer is actually paying a sort of tribute in The Holiday to the Golden age of Hollywood and the leading ladies, directors and scriptwriters of that time - Hawks, Capra and the likes.
She stays true to the Golden age of Hollywood Christmas movie style and infuses it with some chick flick flair - fashion, movie high life, fashion, beauty and fun in the snow. For all of its critics, Winslet, Law, Diaz, Black and Wallach read the script and signed on the dotted line.
Meyer had already had a successful movie with 'Something's Got To Give' and after 'The Holiday' went on to make 'It's Complicated' starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.
All three movies are eminently watchable and definitely movies that you can watch more than once - Meyer has the knack of writing great dialogue so getting stars in the leading roles is not much of a stretch.
She infuses her movies with universal human themes and as such, they are not aimed at any particular age group. This gives them the edge over other chick flicks.
'The Holiday' is a chick Flick with snow, carols and Christmas trees and for most viewers it is very watchable - a chick flick with bells on!
Many thanks for reading this review.
More by this Author
50 First Dates is one of the best chick flicks with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore doing their best to fall in love in beautiful Hawaii. Barrymore's memory loss makes Sandler a stranger to her every time they meet but...
It was the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth on 7th February 2012. This article is a look at my top 10 of his novels on film, either in the cinema or on TV.
Thomas More's Utopia was humanism in renaissance literature. How much was More influenced by the Renaissance? Like other humanists in the Renaissance, he looked to the future influenced by the past.