Christmas season is upon us and that means one thing: Christmas films! Kicking off the festive viewing is Nancy Meyers’ 2006 romcom The Holiday. Following two women, LA-based Amanda and Surrey-based Iris, who are successful in their careers but not so much in love. They agree to swap homes for two weeks over the holidays to escape and get more than they bargained for. Meyers has built a strong career writing and directing successful romcoms such as 1998’s The Parent Trap so it’s no surprise that turning her attention to a festive flick would bring a strong A-list cast and memorable scenes. Like Nora Ephron, Meyers is brilliant at making feelgood films that feature feisty female protagonists who are independent in their own careers but are desperate to find love. What’s great about The Holiday is that it is the perfect film to sit and relax to.
Meyers’ screenplay is full of memorable moments and hilarious quips, mainly at the expense of the film’s characters. What she does well is really develop the four characters in way that makes them really rounded. My favourite scene has Miles (Jack Black) singing and humming the scores from various films as he gives Iris (Kate Winslet) recommendations. It’s hilarious and charming, even featuring a quick cameo from Dustin Hoffman as Miles sings along to The Graduate theme. What makes The Holiday so timeless is how watchable and likeable it is on repeated viewings. Despite elements that are dated such as the house swap website and stereotypical character types, it is the simplicity of Meyers’ script that makes it standout. Her dialogue is natural and effortless which makes it believable and relatable.
In the leading roles we have Cameron Diaz as movie trailer producer Amanda Woods and Kate Winslet as journalist, Iris Simpkins. Both are single and miserable, desperate to escape their everyday lives. We are first introduced to Iris who gives narrative insight into her unrequited love for colleague, Jasper (Rufus Sewell) and the complex relationship they have had as Iris does his every whim. As his engagement to another woman is announced at the office Christmas party, Iris knows that she needs a change of scenery and decides to put her home up for a house swap. This is where Amanda is brought into the mix. We see the melting point of her relationship breakdown with her boyfriend, Ethan, who has cheated on her and her subsequent decision to have a holiday over Christmas. Despite their different backgrounds and situations, the two women share the common thread that they are struggling to find love. What Meyers does in the script is allow the holiday to act as a way to meet new love while also showing the characters that they need to appreciate themselves before anyone else. Iris in particular is really insecure as her on/off relationship with Jasper has left her confused and thinking that maybe they will be together, but her life takes a different turn. In the end, she acknowledges Jasper’s toxicity and rejects him, feeling freedom for the first time when she finds love for herself.
The supporting roles are filled up by Jude Law as Iris’ brother, Graham Simpkins and Jack Black as film composer Miles Dumont. Graham is revealed to be a widower with two young daughters whereas Miles is unlucky in love, finding out his girlfriend Maggie had an affair while he is out with Iris. As the film’s heart-throb, Law is cast perfectly bringing the English charm that is commonly seen in romcoms. Graham’s character story is heartbreaking as he clearly struggles to balance a dating life with his family life. He is unable to settle with a lot of spontaneity which clashes with Amanda’s carefully controlled planning. On the other hand, Miles is an artist who is happy to go with the flow. His music seems unplanned as he plays along with the films he is scoring. This contrasts with Iris’ planned and contained articles. The men act as counterparts to the women and yet compliment them perfectly.
Overall, The Holiday proves to be a popular Christmas choice year after year because of its warmth and hilarious script. It may not be a cinematic masterpiece like It’s a Wonderful Life and Carol, but The Holiday is an entertaining film filled with great performances and makes for a fun film. The addition of Eli Wallach as a Golden Age screenwriter is also a lovely performance that provides a link between the stars of decades past and present day.
What did you think of The Holiday? Let me know in the comments below!