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THE HOLIDAY

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Edward Burns, Rufus Sewell
Director:  Nancy Meyers
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Sony
Features:  See Review
Length:  136 Minutes
Release Date:  March 13, 2007

“You’re supposed to be the leading lady in your own life!”

Film **1/2

Two women from different continents with guy troubles swap houses for a holiday break to get away from it all, but find that guys in different countries are still problematic, just with different accents.  That’s the premise behind Nancy Meyers’ The Holiday, a film with a terrific cast but a little too much nervous energy to make it palatable at more than two hours.

Amanda (Diaz) lives in California, cuts movie trailers for a living, and has just had a neurotic break-up with her lover (Burns).  Iris (Winslet) lives in England, works in publishing, and has been pining for the same man (Sewell) for years.  Both have their homes listed on the internet for house-swapping vacations, and thus begins new adventures for both of them.

Whilst living in Iris’ cottage, Amanda meets Iris’ brother Graham (Law), a charming, handsome fellow who seems too good to be true.  And Iris finds Miles (Black), a film composer with some romance troubles of his own.  Each woman has baggage, and each man has barriers to break through if they want to rekindle that spark of romance in each of their hearts.

The main problem with Meyers’ script is that the women are just a little too neurotic.  They tend to come across more as caricatures than people we can emotionally invest in.  I find this hard to say in a movie starring Kate Winslet, but I found myself more interested in the men.  Graham has a secret, but not the one we’re suspecting.  And the amiable Miles has his own share of troubles, not the least of which is the fact that a woman who looks like Kate Winslet is there in front of him and he still considers going back to the woman who broke his heart.

The film focuses on Amanda and Graham a lot more, making Iris and Miles seem more like an afterthought than viable story characters.  Iris’ best scenes come not with Miles, but with the aging writer Arthur (the superb Wallach).  Their relationship to one another is the most interesting in the movie, but barely a side note in the proceedings.  It could have been fashioned into a terrific film all by itself.

Nancy Meyers is the talent behind the memorable Something’s Gotta Give with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, but here, she seems to venture into Woody Allen territory with a knack for the neurosis, but not so much the charm and humor.  There are a few laughs, and probably a solid point about how we as human beings are usually our own biggest stumbling block in finding happiness, but we probably get enough of that in our real lives.  Asking to spend a couple of hours in others’ fragile mindsets is a bit much to ask.

The actors are all top notch, and they elevate the material to a certain extent, but not quite enough for my entertainment dollar.  There’s romance, there’s comedy, but mostly, just a lot of frustration.

Video ***1/2

Sony delivers another solid anamorphic transfer with this DVD.  The colors are vibrant and lovely throughout, and the seasonal settings make for appealing visuals.  There’s a tad of softness in some lower lit scenes, but nothing distracting.

Audio ***

The dialogue is the key, and the 5.1 audio delivers nicely, with sparse dynamic range and use of the rear channels and subwoofer.  The score by Hans Zimmer is a plus.

Features **

There’s a nice commentary from Meyers and some of her production people, including Zimmer.  There’s also a making-of featurette.

Summary:

The Holiday boasts terrific actors and settings, but might be less of a jolly vacation for you than a reminder of why many don’t go home for the holidays.

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