The Holiday (2006)

Film review: The Holiday (2006), written and directed by Nancy Meyers

Two women on two different continents are having men troubles. In London, Telegraph reporter Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet) moons over ex boyfriend-but-still-BFF Jasper (Rufus Sewell) – only to find out he’s getting married … to someone else. In Los Angeles, Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz), executive of a movie trailer making company, kicks out her unfaithful husband (Edward Burns), just in time for Christmas.

Both just want to get away from it all, and through the magic of the internets, do a home exchange. Glitzy LA extravert goes to cutesey English countryside cottage, while conscientous British introvert goes to luxury Hollywood mansion.

Amanda meets shags Iris’s brother Graham (Jude Law), while Iris befriends neighbour Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach), an old screenwriter, and Miles (Jack Black), a soundtrack composer. Love is in the air.

I remember seeing the trailers for this film some years ago, and I was under the impression that yes, there was a holiday home swap, but I thought the point was they also sort of swapped partners. Not in a swinger way, but you know, two couples were together but there was a mix-up and they ended up realising that they were with the wrong person, or something like that. Well, that’s not what it was about at all, which was just as well.

It’s a nice film, giving you some nice, fluffy feelings, but while it’s not a problem as such, it plays to stereotypes a lot. Namely, how Brits and USAnians view each other. I wonder if USAnians find Amanda’s home surroundings as ridiculously idealised as the British find Iris’s. Because wow, I want a cottage like the one Iris has. It’s adorable, it’s countrysidey, and you just want to pinch its cheeks and coo over it, but at the same time, it’s hilariously fictional.

First of all, the snow. Snow and sub-zero temperatures, for a solid couple of weeks, and just in time for Christmas too. LOL!

Then the inconsistencies, like the taxi stopping a fair bit away from the house because “it can’t turn around”, even though the road clearly goes past the house, so you’d be able to turn around eventually. This is later not a problem at all, because it pulls out in front of the house no problem. Besides, there is such a thing as a three-point turn – even if it might need to be about twelve points if the road is very narrow. Also: taxi drivers tend to be helpful, and dropping someone off a mile from their cottage doesn’t appear very helpful. Even if the roads have snow on them.

Then there are the bits of Amanda trying to drive a car (presumably Iris’s? Do you even know the insurance ramifications of this?!) on the “wrong” side of the road. When coming across meeting traffic, she closes her eyes and screams (like you do?) instead of, what any actual driver would do, which is to SLOW THE HELL DOWN AND WAIT FOR THE OTHER PERSON TO PASS. And the recklessness of driving in the village? If you’re unsure of driving on the “wrong” side of the road, do you a) slow down and drive extra carefully because you’re unsure of your surroundings and the car, or b) speed up, close your eyes and scream, hope it goes well, and nearly crash into people?

And I haven’t even got to the drunk driving part. Apparently, it’s perfectly okay to swig down half a bottle of wine and still take to the roads afterwards, as long as you’re a foreigner and in the countryside. The patrons of the village shop won’t even raise so much as an eyebrow, because in Britain, obviously, everyone’s a drunk driver and we’re all fine with that.

Head, meet desk. If it wasn’t so utterly, over-the-top ridiculous, I’d take offense on behalf of my suspension of disbelief.

Aside from that, I actually really enjoyed the film. Iris got to be more self-assertive, and Amanda got to chill out. The main focus was on Amanda and Graham. They got to have a romantic story, while Iris and Miles were more of an afterthought. Considering we’re talking KATE WINSLET here, that’s just … sad.

Then again, I guess we should see the film for what it is, i.e. mainly made for an American audience. Why should they care more about the British girl discovering LA and how to stand up for herself, than the LA girl discovering twu wuv in the picturesque, nay idyllic, English countryside? The problem is, when you identify more strongly with the British introvert and find her story more engrossing, then the film is a bit lopsided. In defence of the American-in-England plot, the English countryside looks exactly like the sort of English countryside that made me fall in love with this country in the first place. It’s adorable. So is Jude Law as “Mr Napkin Head”, for that matter.

I don’t know. Parts of this film are brilliant. Other parts just beggar belief and I have no idea what they were thinking. That being said, Arthur Abbott is such a sweetheart, and Nancy Meyers does tend to make films I like. So, if you can look past the whole bit about the snowy, idyllic English countryside being practically fictional, and completely ignore the irresponsible driving, and everything else that’s fairly implausible, it’s a cute film with a few interesting (yet not entirely unsurprising) twists.

3.7 out of 5 open fires, because, you know, it’s a cute RomCom.

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