Director: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black, Rufus Sewell
Watch The Holiday online in the UK: Netflix UK / Amazon Prime Video / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
We unwrap a different Christmas film from Netflix’s dubious seasonal selection every day. For 12 days. It’s the 12 Days of Netflix.
“I used only the good notes.” That’s Miles (Jack Black) to Iris (Kate Winslet) in The Holiday, as he composes a melody that might accompany a film about her life. It’s a cute line, one that Black embraces with an adorable amount of earnest heart, and it sets the tone for a romantic comedy that asks the audience to do the same.
The story is the stuff white Christmases are made of: soft, prettily arranged and, if too much pressure is placed upon it, liable to crack and give way to icy holes beneath. Iris is a journalist for a newspaper who is hopelessly in love with her colleague, Jasper (Rufus Sewell) – with an emphasis on hopeless, because he doesn’t feel the same. So, when she discovers he’s about to marry someone else at the paper, she decides to remove herself from the situation entirely, and ends up agreeing a house-swap vacation with Amanda (Cameron Diaz). Amanda lives in Los Angeles and makes movie trailers for a living. Having just split with her unfaithful boyfriend, she’s also up for the impulsive transatlantic trade.
Needless to say, their romantic fortunes improve considerably once they’re sleeping in each other’s beds. Iris meets Miles, a composer friend of Amanda. Amanda meets Graham (Jude Law), Iris’ roguishly charming brother. And yet the best relationship we see on screen doesn’t belong to either of those couples: that honour goes to Amanda’s next door neighbour, Arthur (Eli Wallach), a nonagenarian screenwriter who regales Iris with stories from Hollywood’s golden age.
Eli Wallach’s guest role gives you a clue as to how The Holiday would like to be remembered, but, more importantly, it highlights the sheer amount of stuff it wants to squeeze into its stocking; as well as a romantic comedy, The Holiday also wants to be a knowing love letter to the movies. Amanda’s job, we soon discover, has little relevance other than to introduce some post-modern fake trailer interludes that ironically sum up the plot so far – a neat reflection, perhaps, of how Amanda processes the stresses of life, but one that nonetheless feels out of step with what else is going on.
That’s not to say, though, that The Holiday’s industry in-jokes aren’t entertaining: a subplot that sees Iris and Miles arrange a tribute evening for Arthur is sweet, and makes enjoyable use of the soundtrack. Wallach, meanwhile, is a walking charisma machine, even when he’s struggling to move his legs.
That’s not to say that Kate and Miles’ courtship isn’t entertaining, either: Black and Winslet have an abundance of chemistry, him striking the right balance of kooky and sincere and her bringing real emotional weight to the pain of detaching oneself from a toxic relationship. It’s here that The Holiday finds some surprisingly moving nuance to its dramatic side, as the ever-brilliant (and wonderfully unlikeable) Rufus Sewell proves the perfect contrast to Black’s considerate, kind figure.
Which rather leaves little room for Amanda and Graham’s part of the story to make an impact. Diaz gives good manic anxiety as the American fish out of water, but she’s mainly got a bunch of cliches to work with. Graham fares better in the British half of events, but that’s primarily because Jude Law smoulders like a log fire in the background of a particularly steamy sex scene – by the time he’s called Amanda “lovely” and shown us Mr. Napkin Head (not a euphemism), you’ll be weak at the knees. Nonetheless, you find yourself thinking more about the interior decor goals you’ve set yourself rather than their relationship’s future.
The result is too stuffed to work properly, but there’s enough amiable earnestness on display from the cast to keep you watching anyway, and Nancy Meyers unabashedly asks you to approach the film in the same spirit. Even though you may not care much about all of these characters, you’ll still walk away wanting to marry Jude Law or Jack Black, or preferably both. There are lots of individual good notes in The Holiday – if only it just used those.
The Holiday is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.99 monthly subscription. It is also available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
Where can I watch The Holiday online on pay-per-view VOD?