The Holiday starts with a montage and a monologue which encapsulates everything good about this film – it is scored to Hans Zimmer’s beautiful music (maybe Zimmer’s best score? Yes, I’m glad you agree) and has Kate Winslet’s Iris espousing on love and life in voice-over over images of our central four characters. So; in London, there is Iris and her brother Graham, played by Jude Law (the best character called Graham to ever exist?) and in LA, there is Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and Miles (Jack Black). We also meet our villain Jasper (the delectable Rufus Sewell) in the first few minutes – he works at the same newspaper as Iris, they have had an “on-again/off-again” thing for some time (she is still very much in love with him), then tragedy strikes – his engagement to another woman is announced to the whole office and Iris’ beautiful face has to take in this news and try to hold it together. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it.
I’m willing to fight anyone who does not think that Winslet’s performance as Iris is in the top ten, if not the top five performances of her career. This opening section is extremely reminiscent of Bridget Jones’ Diary (with its newspaper setting, a woman in her 30s being in love with her male colleague) but for me, it is way better and Winslet’s performance is one of the main reasons for this.
We cut to Los Angeles, where of course, Diaz’s Amanda is also unlucky in love – she throws her cheating boyfriend (played by Ed Burns – remember him?) out of the house. Amanda owns a company that makes movie trailers and this means that there is an amazing scene early on where she is working on a trailer starring James Franco and Lindsay Lohan with her two colleagues played by John Krasinski and Kathryn Hahn. Things get surprisingly dark for a rom-com as Iris inhales gas from her oven – “low point” – and it is at this moment that salvation comes from a bing on her laptop. Amanda makes the decision that she needs to get away for Christmas, so she starts searching for vacation properties and comes across a cosy cottage in Surrey, owned by – you guessed it – Iris. The two unhappy women decide to do a house-swap for two weeks and away we go.
Diaz is perhaps the one weak-link of the central four for me, but she does demonstrate some physical comedienne prowess whilst slipping and sliding her way down an icy and snowy country lane to Iris’ cottage. She almost immediately begins to regret her decision until there is a knock on the door in the dead of night. It is drunk Graham (it’s only really hitting me now, after multiple re-watches, how funny that name is) and understandably, there is an immediate spark. It is the next morning, however, that Jude Law truly gets to shine in the role because he PUTS ON GLASSES.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Iris is enjoying Amanda’s palatial home and the sunshine and quickly meets film composer Miles, who visits and tells her about the Santa Anas (I learned everything I know about these crazy winds from The Holiday and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). Miles has an actress girlfriend played by Shannyn Sossamon (remember her?), showing that Jack Black clearly has game in this movie. She also meets her neighbour Arthur (Eli Wallach), who it turns out was a screenwriter during the golden age of Hollywood. One of my favourite things about this film is that it is a love letter to old Hollywood. This film features a pre-Oscar Kate Winslet seeing an Oscar and gasping and I DO NOT KNOW WHAT ELSE YOU WANT FROM A MOVIE. Arthur gives Iris a watch-list of old movies, filled with women with “gumption” and she realises that she should be “the leading lady of her own life” – sniff. Iris even throws a Hanukkah party for Arthur and his friends (this film has all your holiday bases covered).
Back in England, Amanda comes to the realization that we’ve all had about Jude Law – that he is a DADDY. It starts to come to the end of their time together and weepy Graham tells Amanda he loves her. Jasper visits Iris in LA because of course he does. Jasper is one of the most realistically awful men to ever grace a cinema screen – we have all known a Jasper. In LA, the culmination comes with a fancy event at the Writer’s Guild of America, celebrating Arthur’s career. The ending of this movie is one of the happiest endings of all time and I’m positively glowing just thinking about it.
The Holiday is one of the best Christmas movies of all time, with a quality cast on their A-game. Winslet will have you sobbing into your egg-nog and Law will have you melting into your crackling open fire. It is eminently re-watchable, even when it’s not Christmas – it warms my cockles all year round. If you’ve never seen it, now is the time to question all of your life choices and get it into your eyeballs as fast as a one-horse open sleigh. If you’ve seen, now is the time to incorporate it into your annual Christmas-viewing traditions – just try not to get the wrapping paper soggy with tears.
Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Eli Wallach