Paramount // 2005 // 112 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Jonathan Weiss (Retired) // May 8th, 2006
She always thought she was somebody...and she was.
What would you do if you found out you only had a certain amount of time left to live? C'mon, you must have thought about it -- it's a pretty typical question folks ask each other when they're searching for something "deep" to talk about. Y'know, after world events and before celebrity gossip. It's the kind of question that's thrown out there over a lull in conversation -- say at a dinner party, or while camping. Even kids at a sleepover talk about it, and this is before they even realize their own mortality. And why shouldn't they? It's a fascinating subject. You can learn a lot about somebody by the way they answer. But maybe, what's even more important is that by answering honestly, individuals can learn a whole lot about themselves.
When you consider how common a question like this is, it's actually surprising there aren't more movies that use it as a foundation. One that springs to mind is My Life starring Michael Keaton as a terminally ill man who prepares for the birth of his child by recording as many life lessons as he can. Tear jerker? You betcha. Another on would be Joe Versus the Volcano starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Here Tom finds out that he's suffering from a "brain cloud" and decides to quit his soul-sucking job in order to pursue the adventure of his very short lifetime. This one was more of a surreal fantasy. And now there's Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah, a loose remake of the 1950 film of the same name. From the trailer, it looks to be a life-affirming romantic comedy with sass. So, will watching Last Holiday make you want to take a second look at your life or make you want to pull the plug? Only time will tell.
Georgia Bird (Queen Latifah) is a soft-spoken, shy, and demure woman who works in the cookware department of a major department store. Georgia is fearful of life. She's the softest singer in her Baptist choir; she gets bullied by her cell-phoned obsessed boss; she cooks gourmet meals for her neighbour's kid but eats microwavable diet meals herself; and she barely has the nerve to say hello to Shaun (LL Cool J), a fellow employee, whom she obviously has had feelings for a very long time.
That all changes when she gets a knock on the head which takes her to the very well equipped department store medical facility. Two cat scans later Georgia finds out that she has a rare brain virus that has resulted in multiple tumours. The diagnosis: she has roughly three weeks left to live.
Deciding to finally throw all caution to the wind, she quits her job, withdraws her life's savings, and books a trip to the incredibly swanky European resort where her favourite chef (Gerard Depardieu) creates his culinary masterpieces.
Think the previously mentioned Joe Versus The Volcano without the volcano combined with Pretty Woman without the prostitutes and you've got Last Holiday. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing. That's just a warning to potential viewers that if they're expecting anything completely original then they're barking up the wrong tree. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that they're going to be seeing some tried and true cinematic clichés, or, for that matter, plot points coming from miles away. But then, for a movie like Last Holiday that's not really important. What is important is how Last Holiday throws them all into the mix in order to make it the feel-good movie it's obviously hoping to be; and in that regard, Last Holiday succeeds.
Much of the credit goes to Queen Latifah. It's hard not to like Georgia as played by Ms. Latifah. It would be very easy to paint this character with very broad strokes to the point of parody, but Ms. Latifah keeps her as real as possible. Georgia's sweet, not saccharine; shy, not skittish; wounded, not suicidal. These choices help makes Georgia's progression from being someone who has been boxed in by life to someone embracing it all the more successful.
To be sure, this progression isn't a slow one. There's no time. Not with an expected three week life expectancy. It begins with Georgia quitting her job in a very satisfying manner. It continues on her plane trip to the European spa. Of course it doesn't hurt that she now has her life savings handy to back up her words. Nevertheless, each and every calculated moment is meant to get the audience behind her -- and it works. Of course it works. At every step of the way Georgia's only vocalizing what most people wished they could. Only now that she's shed herself of her nasty boss and an obnoxious plane occupant, you just know she's going to need to bump into more people of questionable character to butt up against. And guess what? She does.
Again, it happens almost instantaneously. Just checking-in to the Presidential Suite is enough to raise eyebrows and get tongues a wagging. It gets a Senator's attention -- the Senator who was supposed to visit her church the previous Sunday but couldn't due to unforeseeable circumstances (he was skiing). What a coincidence. It also gets Mathew Kragen's interest (an unbelievably emaciated-looking Timothy Hutton). Maybe his name sounds familiar. It should because wonder of wonders, he just happens to be the ruthless owner of the department store chain that Georgia, up until recently, worked for. And would you believe that Kragen is there at the exact same spa as the Senator in order to influence a decision on a bill that would greatly add to Kragen's wealth? It's just crazy how life can sometimes work like that.
Through multiple Three's Company type misunderstandings Kragen's group (which includes the Senator, a Congressman, his wife, and Kragen's assistant slash mistress) begins to wonder just who this woman is. Kragen thinks she could be a savvy business competitor and tries to find everything there is to know about her and in the meantime tries to show her up at every turn (and fails). The Senator and Congressman, on the other hand think that she's a wealthy entrepreneur or a potential political pundit; either way, the Senator is so taken with her style and sass that he keeps an eye on her too.
Needless to say, before the movie is through, she gets Kragen's mistress/assistant (Alicia Witt), the Senator (Giancarlo Esposito), and even her idol, Chef Didier, on her side. Unexpected? Of course not. But that doesn't make the ride any less enjoyable. We won't even get into the matter of whether she lives or dies, or whether she actually winds up happily ever after with Shaun -- because if you don't see those two coming you either have to see a lot more movies or you simply have to get out more.
Overall, the picture quality is fine. There is one scene after Georgia finds out about her condition where she talks to her HR representative and this woman's head looked as if it was being stretched like a piece of silly putty, but after watching the whole film it appears that either this is an odd singularity or that this poor woman actually does look like this. The sound is fine too -- there's not much opportunity for the 5.1 to shine, but all dialogue is crisp and clean. As far as the extras go -- well there's a bunch. There are three featurettes about the making of Last Holiday which could have probably been combined into one featurette with three chapters. There are 2 deleted scenes that didn't necessarily have to be cut. And there are even two text-based recipes if you want to try your hand at one of the dishes in the movie. All of which are nice additions, but hardly necessary.
If the journey, the characters, and the actors are compelling enough, a film doesn't need to be wholly original in order to be enjoyable. This is the case with Last Holiday.
After weighing the evidence carefully, this court hereby rescinds the death penalty, preferring life instead.
Review content copyright © 2006 Jonathan Weiss; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* "Last Holiday: Packing Light" featurette
* "Last Holiday: Last Look" featurette
* "Last Holiday: 23 Years in the Making" featurette
* Deleted scenes
* Two recipes from Last Holiday
* Theatrical trailer
* Official Site