VOD film review: The Holiday
Ivan Radford | On 14, Dec 2018
Director: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black, Rufus Sewell
Watch The Holiday online in the UK: Netflix UK / Sky Cinema / NOW / Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
“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 logical pressure is placed upon it, liable to 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 of 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, is a way to introduce some post-modern fake trailer interludes that ironically sum up the plot so far – a neat reflection of how Amanda processes the stresses of life, albeit one that feels slightly 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 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 not got much to work with. Graham fares better in the British half of events, but that’s primarily because Jude Law smoulders like a log fire – 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 might find yourself thinking more about the interior decor goals you’ve set yourself rather than their relationship’s future.
The result is arguably too stuffed to work properly, but the amiable earnestness on display from the cast keeps you watching, and the always-reliable 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 – and they continue to resonate long after watching.
The Holiday is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription. It is also available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription. It is also available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.