Film Reviews

“The Holiday” is THE Christmas movie

13 years after release, The Holiday is still watched annually by families across the country.

The Holiday

Starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Edward Burns and Rufus Sewell

Yes, I said it. 10/10. I stand thoroughly by it. The Holiday is – and always will be – the perfect Christmas movie. Is it a perfect movie? Probably not. It doesn’t need to be. Christmas movies exist in a completely separate universe to ordinary films. The usual criticisms simply do not apply to a Christmas film. Nobody wants to be mind boggled while curled up on a sofa with a blanket and a warm mug of hot chocolate. No, you want to be wrapped in warmth and comfort. And that is precisely what The Holiday gives you. The Holiday is full of all of the cliches that one would expect of a Christmas rom-com; literally everything and the kitchen sink is thrown at the audience, and yet it never comes across as saccharine or overly sentimental. It carefully walks the boundary of too much, and instead presents an incredibly sincere and honest depiction, owing both to the brilliant writing and also the phenomenal cast.

The Holiday tells the tale of two singletons Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz). Amanda is a successful LA trailer editor, who has recently broken up with her longtime boyfriend after discovering that he was cheating on her. She works long hours, and is constantly popping pills owing to her stress-related chest spasms. Meanwhile, Iris works at a newspaper in England and is in deep unrequited love with a coworker, who she used to sleep with and is now engaged to a different coworker. Both long to escape over the festive period, leading them to complete a house swap for two weeks.

In movies, there are leading ladies and there are best friends. You are a leading lady, and yet you’re behaving like the best friend.

Arthur Abbott, giving the best advice that anybody has ever given. Ever.

Arriving in LA, and giving the audience an unexpected dose of American sunshine as a break from the typical Christmas scenes, Iris is boggled by the mansion she finds herself staying in. Leaping about with glee, she revels in the new situation she finds herself in, keen to escape from Jasper, who still desperately attempts to cling onto her. While in the neighbourhood, Iris befriends Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach), an ex-screenwriter from the Golden Age of Hollywood, who is now widowed and scared of falling into obscurity. In addition to this, Iris soon finds herself getting closer to composer Miles (Jack Black), who has a complicated love life of his own. Over here, Iris grows within herself. We see her develop from the placid wallflower in England, to realising her own brilliant qualities and making purposeful strides to develop her own life. The real punch comes when Jasper turns up in LA, still desperately leaning on Iris’ affection for him, only to be shown the door.

Meanwhile, in snowy Surrey, Amanda is thoroughly out of her depth. Expecting a sort of oasis, she instead finds herself getting to grips with a freezing cottage in the middle of nowhere, with nothing whatsoever to do. Intent upon leaving, Amanda does not expect to encounter Graham (Jude Law), Iris’s brother, who turns up on the doorstep after a heavy night boozing.

What makes The Holiday so remarkable is the way that both relationships play out in a way that feels thoroughly organic and real. Even though you know that what they’re saying is heavily cliched and overplayed – and in several other ways The Holiday bucks the traditional holiday love story trend – it strangely works. That is due to the brilliant performances by the lead stars, which I don’t think I was fully cognisant of until I actually watched this film in the cinema.

Kate Winslet as Iris is absolutely radiant. How that woman controls her tear ducts I have no idea, but it is so endearing and so brilliantly charming, the way that she constantly ruminates and expands upon her feelings. At times, it’s merely a look. Her face as she observes Jasper getting engaged is utterly heartbreaking, made all the more powerful by her attempts not to cry. The way that her face lights up when he phones her in LA is inspiring. She glows throughout the film, as she rescues poor Arthur from the street and boosts him up – and the gumption – by God – she has heaps of it at the end. Utterly captivating in every scene she is in, you can tell that this is her first romantic comedy as she is definitely giving us drama-levels of performance commitment here.

Cameron Diaz is similarly compelling as aloof lead Amanda, a woman who is defined by her lack of ability to cry. You can tell that there is some deep pain hiding underneath the brash exterior of Amanda’s assertive, businesswoman presentation, and Diaz expertly unfolds this throughout the film as Graham slowly gets more and more under her skin. The tears that she sheds in the taxi will always be a moment of the film that hits me squarely in the feels.

Equally dazzling are the male leads, Jack Black and Jude Law. Both incredibly charming, they provide a wonderful foil to our leading ladies. Graham’s transition from eligible bachelor to caring father-of-two isn’t even vaguely jarring, such is the brilliance with which it is played.

Ultimately, The Holiday then ends precisely where you expect it to. People, united in love, having solved all their problems and swearing to give it a try. What makes the story so remarkable is the truthfulness and the honesty buried in all of the actor’s performances, and the gorgeous words gifted to them by Director/Producer/Writer Nancy Meyers. The Holiday feels so successful because these are people who you could know. These are people who you can ultimately relate to. Amanda’s closed-off reticence to form attachments is experienced by countless many, as well as Iris’ unrequited love. A true masterpiece of a film, that will be enjoyed time and time and time again.

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