Ah, romantic comedies. The perfect escape from your real world problems. Also one of the most predictable film genres, with all the classic female tropes, Nice Guys™, and high jinxes. However, once in a blue moon, we get a rom-com that actually is a feel-good movie and not just corporate self-indulgence. Introducing The Holiday, directed by Nancy Meyers!
English columnist Iris Simpkins (played by Kate Winslet) is a lovelorn woman who is in love with her co-worker, Jasper Bloom. On one Christmas Eve, Jasper makes it public that he is engaged to another co-worker. Devastated, Iris goes home to weep. Meanwhile, Hollywood producer Amanda Woods (played by Cameron Diaz) breaks things off with her boyfriend after finding out he cheated on her with his receptionist. Deciding to take a break from everyone around her, Amanda travels to England after switching homes with Iris for the holiday. While on the other side of the world, both women find themselves in bizarre and romantic adventures.
While I’m not a huge fan of rom-coms, I was strangely attracted to this film. I guess since it was a rather heartwarming film with likable protagonists. Iris is by far my favorite of the two, and her character arc in Hollywood feels much more natural than Amanda’s in Surrey, England. Additionally, the male cast is also fantastic. Jude Law is very charming as Iris’s brother Graham, a single father who is also a writer that struggles to find love. However, the two best performances in the film go to Jack Black as Miles, Amada’s composer, and the late Ethan Wallach as Arthur, a retired Hollywood screenwriter. Arthur struggles to find meaning in life after his long career in Hollywood, until he meets Iris who helps him see the joy in life and get him back into shape. Meanwhile, Jack Black is so funny and charismatic, that it’s hard to hate him.
Nancy Meyers is a veteran in the rom-com genre, directing films such as 1998’s The Parent Trap, 2000’s What Women Want, 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give and 2015’s The Intern. In fact, The Holiday references The Parent Trap was referenced by having Lindsay Lohan appear in a fake movie trailer early on in the film. Meyers is known for her critical look at the male gaze by redirecting it to the female gaze. This can be seen with the film focusing on the desires of both Iris and Amanda and the trials and tribulations that both undergo throughout the film. In her later work, Meyers continued to reinvent the rom-com genre with films such as The Intern.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was that the music was composed by none other than Hans Zimmer. Zimmer’s best known for his work on The Dark Knight Trilogy along with Inception. While he is known for using copious amounts of base-like instrumentals, here he uses mainly soft piano chords in addition with violins to emphasize the film’s somber moments. In those moments where he uses violins, you can hear the almost exact riff from Batman Begins. Despite this, I really enjoyed the score and found it different from most of his other scores from Hollywood blockbusters. Although Zimmer’s most famous for The Dark Knight Trilogy, I personally wish we heard more variety in his score throughout his career.
The Holiday is a feel-good movie through and through. If you try to watch it for a compelling and riveting story, then I would direct you elsewhere, as you will feel let down if that’s your intent. The story itself doesn’t quite add up if you really think about it, however, having a tight-knit story isn’t really the film’s intent. For those looking for a film that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside, look no further. The Holiday may in fact be your perfect holiday escape.