' Cinema Romantico: The Holiday

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Holiday

"Maybe actors should be given Oscars not for the good films they triumph in, but for the weak films they survive." - Roger Ebert

"The Holiday" separates the actress from the movie star. Cameron Diaz can smile and flip her hair really well but Kate Winslet, boys and girls, can act. She possesses skill. She's got, for lack of a better term, serious chops.


The goings-on here add up to your typical romantic comedy. Amanda and Iris - Diaz and Winslet, respectively - are unlucky in love and have both just had their hearts broken by evil men. Therefore, with Christmas coming up, they decide to "house swap" for the holidays, with Amanda living in Iris's English cottage and Iris hanging in Amanda's L.A. pad. The inevitable, of course, ensues. Within six hours (the movie's words - not mine) Amanda has a met a man who looks suspiciously like Jude Law and, by golly, seems perfect in every way. Iris is even MORE lucky. She not only meets composer Miles (Jack Black, trying hard to dial it down though you can practically see him wanting to explode into the Jack Black we all know at every turn) but also meets an old-school Hollywood screenwriter Arthur (old-school actor Eli Wallach) who provides her lessons in life and love.

Though for apparently being such an acclaimed screenwriter, Arthur strangely speaks with an inordinate amount of cliches ("You're a fighter, kid").

The presence of the screenwriter, I think, indicates the movie wanted to be a sort of commentary on the world of romantic comedies. Arthur describes to Iris what a "meet cute" is and explains that she's "a leading lady" but is acting "like a best friend". It's fine if that's what you want to do but then the whole endeavor needs to go over the top, get a bit more operatic in its romantic-comedyness. But "The Holiday" wants it both ways.

Of course, none of this matters. The real goods (at least to Cinema Romantico) are found in the work of Kate Winslet. It was Paul Newman who once said, "Give an actor a great script and he'll move the world." Well, give a great actress drivel and she'll make it convincing. Watch how she manages to make her affection for Miles wholly genuine. She steals little looks of him and laughs at things he says that aren't necessarily funny (ah, and don't guys love that). When she recites the line "Don't blow away" you find yourself stunned that you didn't wince. She even makes the ancient Call-Waiting-Gone-Wrong Scene (you know, Caller A calls Caller B and then Caller C calls and so Caller A says something disparaging about Caller C to Caller B except she was still on with Caller C and so on and so forth) completely realistic. That is not easy.

Perhaps the above Roger Ebert quote is right on. Perhaps Kate should have earned her recent Oscar nomination for this film rather than "Little Children". In that one, her Sarah Pierce was an actual character. Iris is, well, a character in a romantic comedy. Heck, maybe Kate should've won for "The Holiday". Oh sure, Helen Mirren was good but she got to play the Queen of England. Let's see Helen Mirren play air guitar on a pillow and make it look like she's doing it because she wants to do it and not because the script states Iris plays air guitar on a pillow and then we'll talk.

1 comment:

maoduliang1 said...

Loved this review. You have stolen words from my mind. (Ones that I couldn't figure out)