'The Holiday' will give you a sugar high without the carbs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Holiday

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black, Jude Law, Eli Wallach

Directed by: Nancy Meyers

Running length: 2 hrs. 18 min.

Rating: PP (out of 4)

“The Holiday” will probably not find its way into the pantheon of Great Chick Flicks.

Still, you could do a lot worse on a December evening.

Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) hate their lives.

Iris works at a London newspaper. She’s in love with a columnist who doesn’t love her back.

(But of course he keeps stringing her along so she’ll do his editing. This would NEVER happen in real life. No, really.)

Amanda is a movie trailer producer in L.A. She’s just broken up with her boyfriend Ethan (played with just the right amount of smarminess by Edward Burns).

Both women want to get out of town, just in time for the holidays.

They meet on the Internet and impulsively decide to switch houses for two weeks.

(The next day! How can this happen? Oh wait! Suspend your disbelief…)

Amanda arrives at Iris’ charming country cottage near London. It’s cozy, but a little cozier — OK, a lot cozier — than she’s used to.

Meanwhile, Iris arrives in L.A. and is thrilled beyond words with Amanda’s mansion, complete with pool and automatic room darkening shades in the master bedroom.

Amanda just wants a little peace and quiet but quickly discovers she doesn’t know how to relax.

In the middle of the night, her doorbell rings and she’s greeted by a slightly inebriated Graham (Jude Law), Iris’ insanely handsome brother, who’s stopped by to use the bathroom.

Somehow, when Iris told Amanda there were “zero” men in her town, she neglected to mention Graham.

Holy cow! How could this happen? And besides that, how is it that Jude Law is more beautiful than most women? I mean, it’s almost to the point that you’re distracted from the rest of the movie.

Uh… movie, what movie?

OK. Deep breath.

There are immediate sparks between Amanda and Graham — DUH! — and writer Nancy Meyers spends the rest of the movie trying to convince us how perfect Graham is.

(The friend I dragged along to this movie noted that Graham doesn’t even pee outside. “That’s just not right,” he said.)

So the writing, shall we say, is not perfect.

I don’t think you should be sitting in a movie going, “You know, a woman wrote this script.”

I think you should be sitting there going, “This is damn fine writing.”

(Take for example, “Sleepless in Seattle,” which I watched this weekend just to make sure it was as good as I remembered it. It certainly was, sniffle. Nora Ephron is a damn fine writer.)

Still, the principals in “The Holiday” make the best of the material, although I think Diaz is trying a little too hard at times.

Winslet is perfect as Iris, pining away for Jasper (a low-rent Hugh Grant type played by Rufus Sewel) while she gets to know Miles, an unusually subdued Jack Black.

Who knew Black could be so sensitive?

One of the movie’s high points is when Miles, a film composer, takes Iris to the video store and extols movies based on their musical scores. Black finally gets to cut loose a bit, and it’s refreshing.

Iris also develops a friendship with her next-door neighbor, Arthur, played by the wonderful Eli Wallach. It’s a lovely little subplot.

Thanks to Arthur, Iris decides she needs to be the leading lady of her own life.

Another clever part of the movie is that Amanda keeps envisioning her life as a series of movie trailers.

They’re even narrated by Hal Douglas, the real-life movie trailer narrator guy, which is very cool and very funny.

I have to say that my opinion of Jude Law has definitely increased. There’s nary a nanny in sight in this movie, for obvious reasons. So, you know, maybe Jude’s not such a rapscallion after all…

And maybe Santa will bring me a million bucks.

Anyway, check out “The Holiday” this holiday season. It’ll give you that sugar high, only without the carbs.

***

Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or sshinn@ salisburypost.com.

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