Sony // 2006 // 136 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 6th, 2007
An epic romantic comedy. Epic runtime that is.
Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black join forces with Nancy Myers, the director of Something's Gotta Give to create a romcom to be reckoned with.
Iris (Winslet, Titanic) is a hard-luck writer from England hopelessly in love with a co-worker. Unfortunately, it's of the unrequited variety. When she discovers that he's engaged, her heart breaks and the only thing she can think of is escape. Meanwhile, across the pond, Amanda (Diaz, Charlie's Angels), a successful owner of a film marketing company with her own commitment issues, has just broken up with her live-in boyfriend. She too is looking for a respite from life and some Internet legwork leads to a home exchange site. There, she spots Iris' picturesque home and the two women agree to swap abodes for the Christmas holiday; Amanda will go to England for two weeks and Iris will jetset to L.A.
These forlorn women seek only to free themselves from romantic entanglement, but wouldn't you know it, they each meet a guy that may or may not complicate matters. In England, Amanda finds herself embroiled in a weird, sexual relationship with Iris' brother Graham (Law, Cold Mountain), and in L.A., Iris meets Miles (Black, King Kong), a sensitive film composer enduring his own helping of jilted love. Let the playful banter and weeping commence.
The Holiday is long. Way too long. Clocking in at 136 minutes, the film provides a challenge to even the most stalwart of obliging boyfriends. If there isn't some rule about romantic comedies not being allowed to exceed the two-hour mark, then I'm making one now. See, this is a shame, because I did enjoy the movie and likely would have really, really enjoyed it after some reasonable pruning. Lurking somewhere beneath the bloated runtime is a sharp, entertaining 100-minute movie that could be enjoyed by men and women alike. Now, to be fair, I watched this with my wife and she wasn't bothered by the length at all. But she's not writing this review so, whatever.
While watching the film, there were more than a few scenes that struck me as overly long, including some tired, throwaway comic gags involving Diaz and her acclimation to that crazy country England (look, she's freaking about driving on the wrong side of the road!), a pointless sequence where she makes funny faces at a dog, and too-long dialogue scenes with Jude Law that come across more as filler than substantive. Meanwhile, in L.A., Iris has an entire subplot involving a Hollywood writer (played well by Eli Wallach) which, while interesting, probably has too much time devoted to it. Meyers obviously felt everything in the final cut was needed, but I thought the film could have benefited from some weight-loss.
Again, the length isn't a deal-breaker -- though I predict some guys will be resistant to dedicating 2-plus hours to the trek, no matter what kind of freaky @#$% their girlfriends promised them in return. I really did enjoy the film; it's just a shame because I think Meyers had a potentially killer romcom up her sleeve, and it got lost in the padding.
There is considerable focus on the "romantic" portion of the "romantic comedy," as The Holiday isn't a laugh riot. There are some moments that earn chuckles and most of them involved Jack Black. Diaz was asked to shoulder much of the comedic payload, but home-girl just didn't land the deal. Full disclosure time: Cameron Diaz annoys me, so going into this I had pretty low expectations for the amount of time I'd spend chortling away at her zany antics. She does a lot of pronounced gesticulations, breaks out the goofy grin many times, and bumps her head on more than a few occasions, but none of this schtick really worked. Most of the physical comedy was confined to the first half of the film, before the heavy-duty romance kicked in, and I have to be honest with you -- it was a tough slog. As for the other actors, they were all quite good: Jude Law did his smoldering; Kate Winslet -- who I think is ridiculously good-looking -- brought her A game, succeeding the most in the serpentine maze of emotions Meyers wrote for the character; and Jack Black kept the clowning to a minimum, delivering an effectively charming performance.
In the end, The Holiday is a serviceable romantic comedy, a film that took some time affecting me, but paid off well. Meyers is a gifted writer (who may be a little too much in love with her own words) and what she lacks in scripting consistent laughs, she makes up for with insight into her subjects, particularly the women. Much of what Iris and Amanda went through felt real, and save for the irritating voiceover guy from the trailers popping in to narrate Amanda's misfortunes, the cheesy gimmicks were junked.
The disc is well-done. A clear, bright 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is supplemented well by the 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. Hans Zimmer's subdued, but charming score is handled well in the audio. Nancy Meyers delivers a feature-length commentary along with some guests, including Mr. Zimmer. And the making-of documentary is decent, though the fawning over each other by the stars bordered on nauseating.
Sony continues its trend of stocking its films with as many product placements as possible. Thank goodness these romances didn't take place in a Circuit City, or I would have suffered from a capitalism meltdown.
The Holiday is an above-average romantic comedy. I have a major issue with the Megatron-sized length, but the second half of the film picked up enough to keep me engaged.
Not guilty. Time for my mud-mask.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 136 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Director's Commentary
* Foreign Exchange: The Making of The Holiday
* Theatrical Trailer
* Official Site