A British journalist (Winslet) and a Hollywood movie-trailer-maker (Diaz) swap houses for the Christmas holiday season to get as far away as possible from their sad lives and failed romances. Let the meet-cutes begin...
Writer-director Nancy Meyers proved she knew what women want with her 2000 hit of the same name, and satisfied the under-served older female audience with Something’s Gotta Give. Now she’s lunging for the Christmas chick-flick market with a festive romantic comedy that makes Love Actually look positively gritty.
Beautiful, rich, workaholic Amanda (Diaz) has just ejected her cheating boyfriend (Ed Burns) from her palatial LA mansion and fancies a change of scene. Like, say, a snow-covered Surrey cottage where lovelorn Iris (Winslet) pines for the roguish colleague (Rufus Sewell) who might still be dating her if he wasn’t engaged to someone else. A few clicks on a holiday-exchange website later, and Iris is giddily exploring her new capacious Cali accommodations, while Amanda looks quizzically at her quaint bathroom plumbing.
Love arrives, as it must, in the form of Iris’ drunken brother Graham (Law), who hopes to crash at his sister’s pad and instead discovers a horny goddess who thinks foreplay is “overrated”. Over in LA, film composer Miles (Black) hits it off with Iris. Since this is a movie, obstacles are placed in the path of both romances, and not just the ticking clock that will tear both couples apart after two weeks.
If the Long Island-set Something’s Gotta Give was a slice of pure Hamptons porn, then this is Hollywood porn and English countryside porn: rustic charm and LA luxury living, all wrapped up in a big, red Christmas bow. Meyers revels in every glossy detailof upscale consumption, the big-screen incarnation of Elle Decoration magazine.
One fresh development is an unlikely strain of in-joke knowingness about movie narrative. Iris should be the leading lady of her story, she’s told at one point, but she’s stuck playing the best friend part. Amanda hallucinates her own life story as a series of corny film trailers. These flourishes won’t be giving Charlie Kaufman any sleepless nights, but do give the film a fun, brainy sheen.
We could, however, have done without Meyers’ sermons indicting the hollowness of modern film production and distribution (yes, really); also her nostalgic yearning for more innocent Hollywood times. Let’s face it, The Holiday is a tinsel-tied package of cute comedy and skilfully performed emotion that will be relentlessly marketed at its target demographic of females over 25. Who, in other words, is she kidding?
There is bound to be a large appreciative audience for this chick flick. But it might not be you.