Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Written by:Nancy Meyers
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Edward Burns, Rufus Sewell
Released: December 26, 2006
Grade: A-

After seeing the trailer for The Holiday, I braced myself for another predictable romance flick.  As the analogy goes however, one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.  This film is surprisingly good.  To use a quote that belongs on a movie poster – it’s the best romantic comedy of the year.

Amanda (Diaz) lives in Los Angeles and works in the movie industry.  Her job is to make the film trailers that we see in cinemas and on TV (note the irony given the first sense of this review).  She may be successful at work but her life at home is anything but.  Amanda has just broken up with her long-time partner, Ethan (Burns), after finding out he’d cheated on her.  With Christmas just around the corner, she needs to get away from the big city.  She needs a holiday.

Across the globe in a small town outside of London lives Iris (Winslet).  Working as a journalist, Iris has had an on-again, off-again relationship with a fellow employee named Jasper (Sewell) for the past three years.  After learning at the office Christmas party that Jasper has recently become engaged to a another woman, Iris bursts into tears.  She loved Jasper and the fact that he had been truthful with her has left her crushed.  She too needs to get away from her problems.  She too needs a holiday.

Both Amanda and Iris investigate their options on the internet.  They come across a website which runs a home exchange program.  The way it works is that two people meet and agree to swap homes for a defined period of time.  I’m sure I’d do it but it sure saves on the cost of accommodation.  As you can guess, Amanda and Iris meet online and agree to go through with it for two weeks.  Within 24 hours, they’re both travelling on a plane across the Atlantic.

It’s at this point where the movie comes to life.  In the UK, Amanda meets Graham (Law), Iris’s brother.  There’s an immediate attraction but they sense the difficulty in getting involved given that Amanda is only there for two weeks.  In the USA, Iris becomes friends with one of Amanda’s elderly neighbours, Arthur (Wallach).  Arthur was once a famous screenwriter and the two share stories about what Hollywood was like in the “golden days”.  Iris also meets Miles (Black), a struggling film composer with an actress for a girlfriend.  Is she again falling for a taken man?

For romantics in the audience, the film will provide much entertainment.  It may not happen in real life but the characters in The Holiday express their inner-most feelings with brilliant clarity.  Many will relate to their insecurities and this only adds to our willingness for Amanda, Graham, Iris and Miles to find happiness.

I admit to finding the Kate Winslet / Jack Black story the more interesting of the two.  Black has the most laughs in the film and it’s a shame he doesn’t get more screen time.  Winslet’s performance was easily my favourite.  She has an endearing charm that makes her easy to like.  It’s no wonder that she was nominated for four Academy Awards before turning age 30.

Those who can’t be wooed by the film’s romance might find enjoyment in the fact that the movie revolves around the film industry.  With Amanda working as a trailer maker, Jack working as a film score composer and Arthur as a screenwriter, it provides much commentary about the industry in general.  There’s a cute cinematic trick that writer-director Nancy Meyers (What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give) weaves into the film (concerning Amanda) that will leave you smiling.

With a few nice touches and something for almost everyone, The Holiday is a nice, light-weight film to be watching over the Christmas break.