MOVIE REVIEW- Witless: Some 'Holidays' never seem to end
Extolling the virtues of classic films without exhibiting them, The Holiday is as artificially inflated as a Vegas showgirl's breasts. It's a potentially cute 90-minute romantic comedy stretched to 132 minutes because December releases are supposed to be of epic length to be taken seriously. The padding adds only length, not depth.
Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) are both coming out of bad relationships, and with the holidays coming up, they want to get away from their lives. In California, Amanda's Internet search for vacation ideas turns up a home exchange website where Iris has listed her "fairy tale cottage...40 minutes from exciting London."
Although most scenes of the movie last about twice their optimal length, making the same point over and over again, some things happen extremely fast. The next day, both women are on planes to each other's countries, and the trailer Amanda finished editing in L.A. the day before is on the telly in England when she arrives.
Both women have had enough of men for the time being, but this is a movie, so they have to find new loves. It happens quickly for Amanda when Iris' brother Graham (Jude Law), not knowing Iris is gone, knocks on her door, too drunk to drive home from the local pub.
Iris opens the door to Miles (Jack Black), a film score composer who works with Amanda's ex (Edward Burns). While Amanda and Graham jump into bed immediately, Iris and Miles become friends. Miles is dating an actress who's away on location.
Graham has a secret he doesn't feel the need to share with Amanda while they're just having casual, no-strings-attached sex, and they have trouble deciding when they've moved past that point.
Iris' life in L.A. is idyllic, but there's a serpent in her Eden. Jasper (Rufus Sewell), the guy she can't get over, keeps calling on her for help, even though he's engaged to another woman.
Iris makes another new friend, Amanda's next-door neighbor, Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach), a retired screenwriter. The Writers Guild will put together a tribute to him and draw a packed house during Christmas week with a few days' notice.
Writer-director Nancy Meyers, whose last movie, Something's Gotta Give, was her best by far, here takes the obvious way out whenever possible. When it's established early on that Amanda has never cried, no one would take a bet, even at 1000-1 odds, that you won't see her first tear before the credits roll.
Meyers sets up a joke that was probably cut for being too edgy. Miles joins Iris at a Hanukah party she hosts for Arthur and his contemporaries. After a few drinks, Miles says, "I've had too much of the Manischiewitz. I've got to be cut off." You know one of those old Jewish guys would offer to give him a bris.
Each woman has her own narration. Amanda's cleverly mocks her by describing her life in the style of the movie trailers she edits. Iris', in her own voice, sounds rather like Sex & the City– but without the wit. For a romantic comedy, The Holiday isn't very funny. Most of the gags are in the trailer.
Some "chick flicks" can be enjoyed equally by both genders, but they should hang a "No boys allowed" sign on theaters showing The Holiday.