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Movie Reviews from a Christian Family Friendly Entertainment

"The Holiday" Has Suprising Depth for a Chick Flick

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • 2006 12 Dec
  • COMMENTS
"The Holiday" Has Suprising Depth for a Chick Flick

DVD Release Date:  March 13, 2007
Theatrical Release Date:  December 8, 2006
Rating:  PG-13 (sexual content, some rough language )
Genre:  Romantic comedy
Run Time:  138 min.
Director:  Nancy Meyers
Actors:  Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Edward Burns, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossamon, John Krasinski

Much to the chagrin of the chick-flick faithful, the holiday season is usually reserved for movies of the more serious variety (think Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” or the upcoming “The Good Shepherd”) or those with wide-range family appeal (like “Happy Feet” and “Charlotte’s Web”). But nestled somewhere in between, sometimes there's a feel-good movie that’s all about the ups and downs of falling in love.

Cue “The Holiday.”

Unlike warm and fuzzy holiday fare like “While You Were Sleeping” or “Maid in Manhattan,” this movie actually delivers far more depth than one might expect. For the currently unattached or those who’ve been there before, “The Holiday” is heartwarming, relatable and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny – even if the premise itself requires a little suspension of disbelief and includes a strong worldly view of sexuality.

In true Nancy Meyers (“What Women Want,”  “Something’s Gotta Give”) fashion, complete with easy-on-the-eyes actors and even more breathtaking scenery, we’re introduced to Iris (Kate Winslet), a lonely newspaper writer in London who is “head over heels” for the newly engaged Jasper (Rufus Sewell). But despite the fact that he’s about to be married, Jasper still calls her incessantly, which wrecks havoc on her already frail heart.  

Then across the pond, there’s workaholic Amanda (Cameron Diaz), who’s having a few relationship troubles of her own. As the successful owner of a business that edits movie trailers, Amanda doesn’t have much time for love and eventually gets her live-in boyfriend Ethan (Edward Burns) to admit he’s cheating on her.
 
Realizing that she needs a break from her life’s frantic pace, Amanda searches online for the perfect, quiet vacation destination for the upcoming holiday. And low and behold, with a few clicks of her mouse, she locates a home-exchange service and eventually gets in touch with Iris, the owner of the quaint English cottage she spotted in cyberspace. Later, after a few minutes of friendly instant messaging, the girls decide to swap houses, cars – the works. And before you know it, Amanda’s in London, and Iris makes her way to L.A. for Christmas.

As they get settled in, which provides for some hilarious fish-out-of-water moments, they both experience the joys of unexpected relationships – Amanda with Iris’ gorgeous but heavy-drinking brother Graham (Jude Law) and Iris with an elderly neighbor (Eli Wallach) and eventually, with Miles (Jack Black) a movie soundtrack composer.

But instead of running the predictable, down-and-out-girl-gets-the-guy course that anyone can spot from a mile away, Meyers takes her time with the storytelling, allowing the audience to really get to know the characters. While I’d argue that the movie ultimately runs about a half hour too long, the attention to detail, not to mention the clever twists and turns of the plot are certainly a welcome change from the romantic comedy norm.

What’s not surprising, however, is the very Hollywood approach to pre-marital sex that’s prevalent throughout. Rather than take the time to get to know each other and take the abstinence route, Amanda and Graham sleep together right after they meet. Of course, the next morning, they act completely normal around each other, as if it wasn’t a big deal (which I’m sure happens all the time when people don’t subscribe to a Christian worldview). But despite her confidence in hopping into bed with a complete stranger, Amanda sees the emptiness of a relationship purely based on sex and admittedly lacks the emotional ability to commit to a lasting relationship – something she only learns as she and Graham get vulnerable and really begin to communicate, which is always an important lesson.

It’s ultimately through the evolution of their relationship – not to mention an important detail that I won’t ruin for you about Graham – that one really begins rooting for the couple to stay together for the long haul.

Equally, if not more captivating, is seeing Iris bloom from her previously frumpy and emotionally drained self. While it’s hard to believe that Winslet could pull off the role of a dowdy writer, she does so with aplomb, proving her varied skills as an actress. Also surprising is Law’s charming turn as a sensitive (rather than smarmy) book editor and Black's subdued performance that’s a far cry from over-the-top characters like Nacho in "Nacho Libre" and J.B. in “Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny.” As for Diaz, well, she seems like she’s just being herself, which doesn’t make her job too difficult.

Ultimately, it’s the great casting, not to mention an engaging storyline that makes “The Holiday” a step above most chick flicks.  And even though Hollywood equates love with sex once again, there are still some relationship dynamics lessons that can be learned here.
 
AUDIENCE:  Older teens and up (parents should consider the casual view of pre-marital sex before taking teens).

CAUTIONS:

  • Alcohol/Drugs:  Characters are shown consuming alcohol throughout the course of the movie. Graham has a propensity for getting drunk to mask his troubles.
  • Language/Profanity:  A few mild expletives here and there and one “F” word used for comic effect. Several instances of the Lord’s name taken in vain.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Pre-marital sex is definitely the norm – in conversation and practice – for these characters as Iris discusses past sexual encounters with Jasper. Amanda and Graham sleep together before even having a first date. Later on, there’s a scene where Amanda and Graham are in bed (nothing explicit is shown) although Graham is bare chested and Amanda is shown in her bra and panties. 
  • Violence:  None.