GIVE US ALL A BREAK
Loaded with stars, The Holiday marries the worst of British and Hollywood romcom conventions, writes Donald Clarke
THE HOLIDAY ★ Directed by Nancy Meyers. Starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Rufus Sewell, Edward Burns 15A cert, gen release, 138 min
THE mighty Eli Wallach, still vigorous at 90, turns up in Nancy Meyers’s stupefyingly inert romantic comedy as a writer from the golden days of Hollywood. Having taken a shine to his new neighbour, a vacationing Daily Telegraph journalist played by Kate Winslet, he encourages her to watch a series of classic American comedies from the 1930s and 1940s.
Is this wise, Nancy? Reminding the viewer of pictures as good as The Lady Eve and His Girl Friday in a film as bad as The Holiday is rather like scattering photographs of haute cuisine about your local McDonald’s. The weaker entity is sure to suffer by comparison.
What we have here is a frighteningly cynical and hopelessly inept attempt to meld all the cliches of the Richard Curtis school of comedy with those of its supposedly sassier American counterpart. To facilitate this unholy alliance, Cameron Diaz, amovie trailer director from LA, recently split up from some idiot, swaps houses with Kate, herself pining over a recently engaged ex-boyfriend, just as Christmas lumbers into view. Cue all the usual Curtisian tropes.
Katewalks miserably home to her ivy-covered cottage in the snow. A middle-class twit – it’s Jude Law playing Kate’s brother – hums and haws over the charmed American. An entire scene is based around the promiscuous use of the word “shag”. Both girls dance about the room in their pyjamas to the sort of songs – The Killers’ Mr Brightside for Diaz; Jet’s Are You Gonna Be My Girl for Kate – that hopelessly uncool people believe to be cool.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. There is an audience that likes this kind of thing and they should be allowed to like the kind of thing they do, indeed, like. But a glance at the great comedies that Wallach’s character recommends will confirm that The Holiday doesn’t even succeed on its own terms.
There are two main problems. Firstly, every nuance of plot is furthered not through action, but through pages and pages of boringly flat dialogue from which all wit has been ruthlessly stripped. Cameron and Kate each deserve Oscars just for memorising this stuff. Secondly, everybody in the film is so bloody nice there is no scope for conflict. Diaz and Winslet are awfully kind. Mr Wallach’s ever so friendly. Jack Black, the Californian love interest, is an absolute sweetie. Heck, even Jude Law plays a decent bloke.
I never thought I’d say this, but I long for the sour cynicism of Love Actually.