When Aisha chose Kate Winslet as her choice for an actor of whose entire body of work I'd not only watch but review, part of me knew that The Holiday was the main reason behind it, as after the last viewing I'd all but sworn never to watch it again. Alas, my commitment to a challenge and willingness to prove myself against any obstacle has forced me to bite the bullet and watch this film, one of my girlfriend's all time favourites, especially when it comes to Christmas films. Her adoration for the film also means that I'm going to be quite careful about criticising it, as it is Christmas after all, a time for peace, goodwill and keeping one's near endless stream on isnults to oneself.
But dear lord is this film long. So goddamn long. The 130 minutes I spent watching this felt like an eternity, and if I hadn't opted never to see it again before, that statement is being underlined in a thick, festive, sparkly gold pen this time around. It was probably unfair of me to watch this film straight after a far greater romantically-themed Yuletide film, Love, Actually. In case you're unaware (and I'd strongly recommend you become more aware), Love, Actually depicts around a dozen tangentially linked love stories, predominantly set in London in the weeks coming up to Christmas. All of the stories are given enough time without overstepping their boundaries, most reach satisfying conclusions and, for the most part, feel both real, entertaining, heart-warming and funny. And all of this is done in 129 minutes. The Holiday, with a whole sixty extra seconds at its disposal, gives us just two such stories, Iris' and Amanda's, with a little bit of time given to the respective histories of their love interests, Jack Black and Jude Law, and Eli Wallach as Iris' new neighbour. And yet even with the extra time, I still feel that the characters in Love, Actually are more well rounded, plausible and relatable, even Bill Nighy's aging rock star and Hugh Grant's bachelor Prime Minister.
But hold on, I went a bit negative there, and I'm trying not to do that. I suppose I shouldn't have compared this film to one of the best of the genre (festive romantic comedy), and instead I'll knock out festive and just see how this does when stacked against the seemingly endless slew of romantic comedies churned out in the past decade. When compared to those, The Holiday actually has quite a bit going for it for people that have an interest in movies. This is because not only is one half of the film set in Los Angeles, but Eli Wallach's character is an Oscar-winning script writer, Jack Black's is a composer, and there's a smattering of cinematic references peppered throughout the film. Whether it's Black's Miles celebrating the great film scores (complete with one of the most unexpected and still puzzling cameos I've seen), or Wallach's Arthur recommending the classics to Iris, or the latest trailer Diaz's Amanda has cut for a Lindsay Lohan and James Franco starring film called Deception, there's lot of sly cuts at the state of film making today, specifically how more films cannot guarantee greater quality. This is something I can fully get on board with, however the movie world sub-plot is buried so deeply amongst the insipid love stories that it fails to make much of an impact.
Seeing as this is a film both written and directed by Nancy Meyers (What Women Want, Something's Gotta Give, It's Complicated), it will come as no surprise to discover that all of the characters are wealthy, middle-to-upper class white people with no real problems other than emotional ones. Every aspect of both Iris and Amanda's lives is perfect, from their jobs to their homes, and its only their utter devotion to their careers that has left them without much of a home life to lead in their extravagant homes. It is possibly the abodes of these two women that most separates myself and my girlfriend. Iris' chocolate box snow-covered cottage buried in the Surrey countryside and only accessible via a winding country lane and a couple of fields has long been Aisha's dream home, and she was less than pleased to discover that such a place does not exist. Amanda's palatial L.A. mansion on the other hand is my idea of perfection - a giant cinema room, shelves overflowing with DVDs, remote controlled blackout blinds, swimming pool, gym, giant rooms, and did I mention the multi-award winning screenplay writer living next door?
If you want a standard romantic comedy, you can do worse than this, and it may even educate some people on what classic films they should be watching instead, but if you're after something genuinely enjoyable and with a tolerable running time, I'd suggest looking elsewhere. Plus, even though the film is set over the Christmas period, absolutely no mention is made of Christmas day! I couldn't believe it when the plot skipped from Iris and Miles going out for pasta on Christmas Eve, to shopping for a hat for Arthur some days later. I'm not even sure what the point of the Christmas setting was, other than to intensify the juxtaposition between the sun-drenched L.A. and the knee-deep snow of Surrey. I suppose the final New Year's Eve scene ties it all together nicely, but that's a bit of a stretch.
Choose life 6/10