Stuff I Watch in December: The Holiday (2006)

Happy Holidays and welcome! We are counting down the days until December 25th and, in that time, I will be reviewing each and every Christmas/holiday film I watch during the month. They’re mostly a selection of films in my own library or films and shows that have been recommended to me.

Please enjoy and leave a comment!

And if you missed any of our past reflections, take a look:

Holiday Inn (1942)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
White Christmas (1954)
Santa Claus (1959)
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
I Believe in Santa Claus (1984)
Lethal Weapon (1986)
Die Hard (1988)
Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
Scrooged (1988)
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Home Alone (1990)
Die Hard 2 (1990)
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992)
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Jingle All the Way (1996)
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Home Alone 3 (1997)
Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999)
Olive the Other Reindeer (1999)
Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales (2002)
I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown (2003)
Elf (2003)
Love, Actually (2003)
Home Alone 4 (2003)
Bad Santa (2003)
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Our next film is…

WATCHING: The Holiday (2006)

the holiday

DIRECTOR: Nancy F’n Goddamn Meyer. Look, I love her Pottery Barn-chic style. But her movies are so unbelievably silly, needlessly long and drawn out, and ultimately unsatisfying. I’d say she’s a better screenwriter than she is a director but Baby Boom and Private Benjamin were a long, LONG time ago.

WHAT IS IT?: A romantic Christmas comedy which feels like it was too pretty for the Hallmark Christmas Movie crowd, so they bullied her and tossed her in the gutter.

THE PLOT: Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz) is an American woman, working as an editor in Los Angeles while Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet) is a British woman working as a columnist in the UK. Both are horrified with their respective ex’s. Amanda’s cheated on her while Iris’s ex decided to dump her, keep her hanging around — then got engaged without so much as saying a word or giving a hint. At Christmastime, Amanda, a workaholic, decides she needs a break and Googles house-swapping, coming across Iris’s cottage. The two agree to swap houses for the holidays to get away from the men they detest — if only it was that simple.

After arriving at Iris’s cottage, Amanda begins to see Iris’s charming brother Graham (Jude Law) who happens to stop by Iris’s place to sleep it off after a drunken night at a local pub. Meanwhile, in L.A., Iris makes friends with one of Amanda’s colleagues, Miles (Jack Black), a film composer with whom Amanda works closely. While both women slowly begin to fall for the new men in their lives, the relationships are complicated: Graham has two kids from his first marriage (his wife passed away) and doesn’t bother to tell Amanda this while Miles is seeing a woman who doesn’t seem to have Miles’ emotional interests in mind. His relationship with Iris is strictly platonic (they work together to help a local veteran Hollywood writer, played by the late, great Eli Wallach, get recognized for his lifetime accomplishments) but become closer as time passes.

WHAT DID CRITICS THINK?: The film received mixed reviews from critics who thought it was predictable and silly. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly said that the film wasn’t nearly as smart as Meyer thought it would be.

the holiday

WHAT DID I THINK?: I first saw “The Holiday” in 2006. I remember rolling my eyes through most of it because, let’s face it, writer/director Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated”, “Something’s Gotta Give”) is discount-store Nora Ephron. Her dialogue is by-the-numbers and her storytelling is weak and not as sharp as she believes it to be.

She, does, however, put on a decent show.

Every scene is lovingly established, with sweeping music by the great Hans Zimmer. While his efforts are mostly wasted here and he’s far more than this film deserves, his score cues are gorgeous. And when Myers doesn’t use his talents, she makes sure to bombard you with pop hits and old, jazzy/crooner Christmas classics.

Every visual is like something out of a Williams-Sonoma \catalogue with an Old Hollywood theme, complete with its art deco Spanish architecture. It’s coldly and shrewdly calculated to appeal to a very obvious demographic, a predictable piece of fluff.

The premise isn’t terrible and nearly everyone is appealing and “perfect”. There are no nicer people in the world than the characters shown here. Amanda likes being in charge but goes with the flow, Graham’s a family man with an answer for everything, Iris is a sugary sweet trooper to the point where she makes actual sugar taste like dirt, and Miles is just so likable, he fits right in. Meanwhile, the film’s sub-plot involving Eli Wallach as “Arthur Abbott” seems to get lost in the shuffle a bit and really only serves as a cheap plot device so that Iris and Miles have a believable reason to end up together. For what it’s worth, Jack Black is outstanding in this role and is a welcome sight in this film, something the film needs because I get the feeling that if Black wasn’t in the film, this just ends up being another silly rom-com that makes you glance at your watch every ten minutes.

While it’s trite, a few million dollars less from being a glorified Hallmark Christmas movie, and means nothing (not to mention overlong; did this film NEED to be 2 1/2 hours?), of every Meyers film I’ve seen, it’s her most composed and focused film. It’s pleasant and fairly easy to get through. You just won’t remember much of it after its over.


Leave a Reply