The Holiday (2006)
Director: Nancy Meyers
Screenwriter: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Edward Burns, Rufus Sewell
Coming from Nancy Meyers, the director of What Women Want (2000), The Holiday is another light-hearted rom-com, this time telling the story of four people who are all dissatisfied with their lives until a fateful meeting changes each of them for the better during the Christmas holidays.
In this 2006 modern staple of the holiday period, the American director focuses mostly on women’s struggles in modern everyday life as they try to get by both within their professions and in their personal lives. The main characters are two very different women: Amanda (Cameron Diaz), an American movie-trailer maker form L.A., and; Iris (Kate Winslet), a writer for one of the UK’s most respected newspapers The Telegraph. Both face many difficulties, but the film focuses squarely on those involving their love lives, with Iris shown to still be in love with her ex of three years Jasper (Rufus Sewell) – who cheated on her and is about to get married – while Amanda is accused by her cheating boyfriend of not being able to have a stable relationship, thus making her feel at fault for their breakup. In order to forget their bad experiences, they each decide to change environment and swap houses for the Christmas holidays. The Holiday then ensues.
The story is told from the point of view of the two female leads, which still feels new, refreshing and likeable for a Christmas film, even in 2019. It does, however, make for a narrative that offers a lack of depth to many of the male characters, which on the whole makes the film fall a little flat, although there were two exceptions: Jude Law’s character Graham, whose life seems tangible and complicated, and is a man who appears to be very sensitive, easily hurt, and able to understand women’s nature, and; screenwriter Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach), who plays a leading role in helping Iris to understand her strong points and the meaning of life, as they both develop a friendship during the time she stays in L.A. – their friendship dynamic was well explored and enjoyable to watch thanks to meaningful dialogue exchanges and the use of the film’s music, composed by The Dark Knight and Inception composer Hans Zimmer, which played a primary role in the whole film by pointing out the most important and emotional moments for the characters.
One male character who should have been explored more is Mills (Jack Black), a friend of Amanda’s who becomes an important figure in Iris’s life. Somehow you get the feeling that their relationship is not explored as well as it should be, with each of them having less screen time than Amanda and Iris’s brother Graham, whose developing relationship the film mostly concentrates on. It leaves a distinct lack of closure regarding Iris and Miles, their romenace feeling rushed and Black’s character suffering the most per the result.
Generally, the actors deliver convincing performances, especially Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Jack Black – the latter doesn’t abandon his comedic side but also manages to deliver some dramatic moments that weren’t explored before in his career; all with less to go on than his fellow leading cast members. Cameron Diaz’s lead performance is also convincing but completely in line with the characters she played in other rom-coms; there may not be anything surprising from her here, but she provides the enjoyment we’d become accustomed to at the time.
Being set at Christmas, The Holiday does mix Zimmer’s work and the seasonally appropriate romantic angle of the narrative with a mix of classic holiday songs, including “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by Judy Garland from the silver screen Christmas classic Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), the cover of the song in this film helping to associate the film with classics of the Christmas period and solidify it as a choice for many during the holidays.
Even though the film cannot be compared with other Christmas classics such as It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) or the above-mentioned Meet Me in St.Louis (1944) as they are very different both in terms of cinematic techniques and plots, it is nevertheless an enjoyable watch during the holidays that helps you get into the Christmas spirit. A lovely rom-com for the time of year without offering much of anything new, The Holiday is very much what you’d expect from the sum of its parts.