Monday, February 23, 2009

The Holiday

I remember when the previews for this movie were playing on TV I thought that it sounded like a good story, but something about the previews made me think it would be disappointing. As a result I've never watched the film, and once again the Netflix Queue surprises...

When I started watching the film last night (after a full day of in-law exposure,) I was tired, and honestly needed something fluffy to soothe my brain while the day wound down. I wasn't prepared at all for how endearing and witty this movie actually was.

As the movie began to play I was repeatedly pleasantly surprised as familiar faces filled the screen. I knew it was a "Kate Winslet" movie, but was happy to see Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, and Jack Black fill out the cast. Even more of a pleasant surprise was meeting Eli Wallach for the first time.

The movie follows several story lines simultaneously, a la Love Actually. We meet Iris (Winslet) and Amanda (Diaz) on opposite sides of the The Pond, but their situations couldn't be much more similar. Both are emotionally stunted in the way they relate to others, leading empty un-fulfilling lives as a result. Fed up to the very breaking point, both end up on the web searching for a way to get away from it all. Where their lives intersect is a home-exchange website, and on a whim they agree to swap homes for a few weeks vacation.

The two leading ladies here are fantastic together, and I have to say I was a bit surprised. This is a wonderful example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. I'm ambivalent about both of these actresses. Kate Winslet will forever be tarnished by Titanic for me (eww, Leonardo Di Caprio cooties!) and I often find Cameron Diaz terribly obnoxious and annoying. Here however, Diaz actually finds subtlety within a self-absorbed, obnoxious L.A. socialite of a character. She does an excellent job of bringing out a tender side that leaves the viewer actually caring about her situation. Kate Winslet's character is just as beautifully played, and watching the transformation in her life as she spreads her wings through the course of the movie was particularly enjoyable to watch.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again--I really like Jude Law. I think he's a remarkably versatile actor, and painfully underrated in the Hollywood scene. Here he does not disappoint, playing Iris' brother, and Amanda's new love interest. He's refreshingly open, honest, and vulnerable, but shields a secret close to his heart. I won't give away his secret, just in case you haven't yet seen the film. Suffice it to say when I finally got a handle on his character, my heart ached in hope for him and Amanda.

Jack Black on the other hand is a bit of an enigma to me. Slapstick comedy that shows up in many of his films (Nacho Libre?) just isn't my cup of tea. I tolerated School of Rock--saved only by his tender heart for the kids. Much of the same to report with Shallow Hal. He really does have a great heart that comes across in most of his characters, and this film is no exception. A little quirky, but lovable, he's good medicine for Iris--if only their loyal hearts will allow them to accept the manner in which they met.

One of my favorite characters in this character-rich film is Arthur Abbott played by Eli Wallach. Eli Wallach has a rich cinematographic history spanning almost 60 years. This film is the first I've seen of him to my knowledge. Arthur Abbott is delightfully quirky with a wonderful outlook on life, and I really get the sense that Wallach didn't do much acting. If he did, it was masterfully, if not seamlessly done.

Overall this movie was wonderfully romantic, and beautifully shot. The areas depicted of Surrey, England and L.A. both were just gorgeous. The film left the viewer rooting for its characters, and that's always a good thing.

This film is rated PG-13, with a few sexual situations that seem to arise in modern dating relationships. No nudity, and only a small amount of cussing--nothing terribly distracting. Watch the movie, you'll enjoy it.

I give this movie an A-.

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