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The Holiday (3/10)

by Tony Medley

The most interesting thing that happened during the screening of this was at about the 4-1/2 or 5-hour mark (I can’t be certain because my watch battery, which was young and robust when it started was showing signs of old age) someone dropped a water bottle. I was sitting on the aisle, as was the dropper. It landed flat and rolled almost all the way down the aisle to the front row, seizing the attention of everyone waiting for the film to finally end.

Meanwhile, onscreen Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, and Jack Black were unsuccessfully trying to keep up with Kate Winslet, who was giving a remarkable performance. Diaz poses a real problem for me in any film because she must be Steve Martin’s identical twin (a physical impossibility, but, still…). Every time she smiles her s---eating grin, I see Steve with an arrow through his head or clad in King Tut’s outfit. With such identical smiles, these two must have been originally joined at the head.

Any film that poses as a romantic comedy that lasts for well over two hours (2:09 and 2:16 were the two estimates given to me) suffers from an egoistic director, unwilling to cut a foot of film. Since Nancy Meyers both wrote and directed, bingo! This flimsy effort wouldn’t have been interesting had it been cut to 90 minutes. It would strain to hold interest as a one hour TV play.

Amanda (Diaz) and Iris (Winslet), both having love problems, swap houses. Amanda takes Iris’s cottage in England and Iris takes Amanda’s Beverly Hills mansion (straining credulity to the breaking point, Amanda (Diaz) is the owner of her own business, which makes movie trailers; talk about miscasting!). Not surprisingly, each meets a love interest, Amanda meets Iris’ brother, Graham (Law), and Iris meets Amanda’s employee, Miles (Black).

The film does answer a question that has perplexed me, to wit, can a woman “shag” a man, or is it only a man who can “shag” a woman? Because I deplore the expression, right at the beginning this film got on my wrong side when a friend of Iris accuses her of “shagging” her unrequited lover, Jaspar (Rufus Sewell, the only member of the cast who might have been able to hold his own with Winslet, but if you blink you miss him). Question answered. Having thereby gotten off on the wrong foot with me, it continued downhill.

The best part of the film occurs when two little girls appear onscreen (I won’t tell what their relationship is because it might spoil a plot point and there are so precious few here). But Mifty Englefield, who plays Sophie, and Emma Pritchard, who plays Olivia, are so charming and cute that just seeing them almost makes the film bearable. Alas, they are in far too few scenes.

Meyers’ script is impossibly long, talky, and uninvolving. For me, one of the cardinal sins of any movie is when we are shown two people getting to know one another with a montage of quick cuts of them sitting and talking under music with no dialogue, each cut representing the passage of time. You know the scenes, they are totally involved with one another, laughing and carrying on, but we can’t hear what they are saying. Ugh! But that’s the way Meyers has Amanda fall in love with Graham. Apparently she couldn’t figure out any clever dialogue, so she finessed it.

This movie carries on for what seems like forever. After it is seemingly over and we feel as if we should be allowed to depart, the ending even drags on ad infinitum. In fact, Eli Wallach, who plays Arthur, an octogenarian Jewish screenwriter disabled by age, sums up sitting through this film nicely, when he tells Iris, “Let’s get this embarrassment over with.”

Women might like this because it is certainly a chick flick. I give it a low-moderate rating because Winslet proves what an exceptional actress she is by taking this dreadful material and giving a captivating performance, while Englefield and Pritchard steal every scene in which they appear.

December 5, 2006