GIVE US ALL A BREAK

Loaded with stars, The Hol­i­day mar­ries the worst of Bri­tish and Hol­ly­wood rom­com con­ven­tions, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - REVIEWS FILM -

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.

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