Wednesday, December 06, 2006

THE HOLIDAY - much too much, much too long

THE HOLIDAY is billed as a romantic-comedy by the woman who brought us WHAT WOMEN WANT and SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE: Nancy Meyers. I rather liked the former and really enjoyed the latter. Sadly, THE HOLIDAY amps up the formula too far - and believe me, it ain't rocket science they're using. Instead of one star-crossed Hollywood-gorgeous couple, we have two! Ta-da!

Two girls are getting out of rubbish relationships. One is an English chick called Iris (Kate Winslet) and the other is a high-powered LA chick called Amanda (Cameron Diaz). They decide to swap houses for the Christmas vacation and lick their wounds in private. Diaz' character immediately gets her groove on with Iris' brother Graham (Jude Law). They have what they hope is a drunken fling before love and history complicate things. Despite the obligatory super-sweet ending (there ain't no plot to spoil in such a slavishly formulaic movie), Meyers never really resolves this story. She creates an obstacle so insuperable in their career and family commitments that I never really bought it. Meanwhile, in LA, Winslet's character is hanging out with her cool elderly neighbour - a retired famous screen-writer - and slowly falling for Jack Black's movie composer.

The first hour of this two hour movie really drags. It's not bad in itself: there's just too much of it. Too much time is taken in establishing why each girl is miserable and getting them to their respective romantic encounters. This just feels like bad editing, and I wonder if the reluctance to trim it down springs from pressure from the sponsors - a lot of the product placement is in this segment. Despite this weak beginning, the second hour of the movie is an enjoyable if completely unmemorable ride. Cameron Diaz' innate charm and her ability to carry ditzy humour compensates for the fairly lacklustre dialogue. And in the LA segment, it's great to see Jack Black playing a more buttoned down character - it makes you enjoy the occasional slice of craziness all the more. Eli Wallach is also really touching as the veteran screen-writer. However, Poor Jude Law and Kate Winslet are stuck with playing characters that are drawn as too good to be true. They have no dark side - no depth. They're just super-nice people who have been trampled on by life and who deserve a break. That's just not interesting to me.

One final note. I really enjoyed the character of the ageing Hollywood pro but I find it disingenuous to have a film that rages against modern Hollywood's obsession with opening weekends, product placement and special effects, and yet is itself a purveyor of crass commercialism. These guys are begging so badly for a big opening weekend that instead of casting one big-name leading couple, they cast two! You can just see the producers thinking - let's cast Jack Black - that'll open up the target demographic! Furthermore, with its intertwining romances set partly in the sort of England where it snows at Christmas and people say "shag" a lot, this feels like a shameless cash-in on the Richard Curtis oeuvre. Added to this, the product placement is so full-on in the first hour - especially in reference to a particularly nasty British newspaper - that it makes CASINO ROYALE look demure. And finally, before we rail against special effects, let's just take another look at all that CGI snow falling in Surrey!


THE HOLIDAY opens in Spain, Denmark, Iceland, the UK and the US this Friday. It opens in Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, Estonia, Norway and Sweden on December 15th. It opens in Belgium, Brazil, Finland and Mexico on the 22nd and in Australia, France and Turkey between Christmas and New Year. It opens in Argentina on January 11th, Bulgaria on January 19th, Italy on February 9th and Japan on March 10th.

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