The Holiday (2006)

RB score:  9/10

“The Holiday” is such an unmitigated delight that I implore anyone who hasn’t seen it to get a copy immediately.  Not difficult since it can now be found in bargain bins everywhere.  How did I ever miss this in 2006?  Well.. let me not digress onto that path and just say that yes, this is a formula movie but so well done it is on the level of Sleepless in Seattle well done, When Harry Met Sally well done, You’ve Got Mail well done.  Interestingly I just noticed that Meg Ryan was the lead in all 3 of those movies.   Pretty tough standard to live up to but this movie is absolutely Meg-calibre.

This time, the leads  are Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz.  To say that Kate Winslet can act is like saying Meryl Streep can act,  and Winslet  certainly does not disappoint.   Indeed, part of the sheer joy of this film, and what makes it worth repeated viewings, is the level of talent.   You’re not glued to the screen wondering what happens next, although you are carried along for an enjoyable ride replete with good cinematography and soundtrack.  You are however, hopefully having as much fun as I did watching talented performers at work.   Diaz just plain hits it out of the park especially with her mastery of physical comedy.  Winslet also channels her inner physical comedienne as a successful London newspaper columnist (Iris) and Diaz (Amanda) is a successful owner of a company that produces movie trailers.  Both women, who have everything going for them, also have a knack for choosing the wrong men which in both cases causes a heartbreaking situation to happen right before Christmas.   Not unrealistic!  Both women then yearn for an immediate escape during the holidays, and impulsively list their homes online for a vacation-exchange.  Thus we find Amanda leaving sunny California for a picturesque English cottage while Winslet gladly flees her English village for a chance to stay at Amanda’s luxury home in Los Angeles.   Amanda then meets Iris’s brother Graham, played by Jude Law, and Iris eventually meets Miles, a composer friend of Amanda’s ex-boyfriend.  Iris’s LA adventures become even more interesting when she bonds with Amanda’s elderly neighbor, the veteran actor Eli Wallach, as a retired Hollywood writer Arthur.  The character of Arthur gives this film an added dimension of humanity as well as a sort of theme within the story,  a simple yet powerful nod of respect to the trailblazers of yesteryear.

The house (and continent) switching gives director Meyer a truly brilliant base to work from.    There is almost no shared screen time between the lead actresses so the star quality of both  gets center stage.  Even better, both actresses create a believable, winning chemistry with their costars.   Jude Law as Graham seemed so natural in the role I fail to understand why he hasn’t tried this genre previously.   Then Jack Black  – that’s right, Jack Black.  About the last actor one expects to see cast in a romantic comedy.   Reportedly he even said as much to director Nancy Myers when she called him.  But she knew where she wanted to go with his character and in the process added another dimension to the movie –  and to Black’s resume.  I can’t praise this director enough!   Myers not only directed, she wrote the script based on the actors she had in mind for each part and the result is gold.   My perception is that Myers had an unerring sense of not only how to get the best results from her cast and crew, but to get them to excel in such a way they surprised even themselves.  I’m serious the movie is that good, see it!