Monday, April 16, 2007

In Flight Movie Reviews: The Holiday

Last week I and mi amigos flew to D.C. to find some housing. We found a sweet place in a transitional ghetto. Our little trip required airplane travel, and I find that when I fly, I am compelled to see whatever movie is playing. Hence the reason I have seen the horrible horrible film Zeus and Roxanne about a dog, a dolphin, and Steve Guttenburg as a motorcycle dude. It is also for this reason that I found myself watching The Holiday on our flight home.

Spoiler alert: I will not only tell you everything that happens but I will tell you how bad everything is.

Oh, Kate Winslet, why hast thou forsaken me? For surely, not since The Last Kiss, has there been a movie as vile as The Holiday.

If you have watched TV in the last year I'm sure you know the the basic premise of the movie: two women who have just gotten out of bad relationships "house swap" for a change of scene. And then they both find love in their new surroundings!

And what a horrible, treackly love it is. The Holiday seems to be left over segments from Love Actually that were scrapped because they were both uninteresting and unfunny.

Kate Winslet, who I adore, has the schlockiest character in the film. She plays Iris, an English girl who writes the wedding announcements for her local paper and paradoxically, is unlucky in love. When she comes to America she befriends her elderly neighbor, Arthur, who it turns out was a film maker in the golden age of Hollywood. Arthur recomends some old movies for Iris. The movies are filled with spunky female characters who help her develop the backbone she needs to get over her cheating x-boyfriend. Spunky! This breaks a cardinal rule of film making: don't mention good films in your crappy film.

Oh and she also ends up falling for Jack Black, who is a film composer. There couldn't possible be less chemistry between any two people. There was more chemistry between Samuel L. Jackson and the shark that ate him in Deep Blue Sea.

The scenes between Winslet and her neighbor are excruciating - overly saccharine, and lacking in any feeling of veracity. For an example of similar relationship that actually works, check out the interaction between Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy in Fried Green Tomatoes. I also think one of the most wince-worthy scenes I've watched in a while occurs when Winslet and Black are at the piano doing some sort of scat based on "Doodlie-do". Never has a scene felt more scripted, and I was actually embarassed for Winslet.

Cameron Diaz and Jude Law's storyline, which occupies more of the film is just as bad. Diaz plays an woman who can't cry because her parents divorced when she was a kid and she never saw it coming. No, seriously. She's and only child and before the split her family called itself the three musketeers. Jude Law plays a widowesr with two kids, who seems to spend a lot of time whoring and very little with his kids, which seems to match his real life as well. Turns out he and his children call themselves the three muskateers too! No really, I can't even make this up.

The plot has another twist in it: Diaz learns to cry again. I know, I couldn't believe it either. And they waited right until the end to have it happen. It was very dramatic.

The one slightly novel idea in the film is the use of a film trailer device. Diaz edits film trailers for a living, so she starts seeing her failed romances in trailer form: "Amanda couldn't find love, but then...." In a completely different film this might be really interesting, funny even. In this film it was distracting and odd since no other character has similar out of context experiences.

There are so many terrible elements in The Holiday it's hard to know where to begin and end: the script, the acting, the direction - it sucks to its innermost core. I can't help but be reminded of Sean Penn's diatribe at the Oscars that Jude Law "Is one of our finest actors". If he's seen The Holiday, he surely rues those words.

The movie is directed by Nancy Meyers who also directed the shit storm that is What Women Want. What Meyers and her ilk fail to realize is that every viewer knows it's boy meets girl, boy gets girl in the end - it's all the shit in the middle that counts. And that's where a good romantic movie will deliver in the novelty department. Doing the same old shit while just tossing in a house swap just doesn't cut the mustard. It's like Jude Law says to Cameron Diaz:
"I'm a book editor from London - you're a trailer-maker from LA. We're worlds apart!" And though never was a crappier, more ridiculous line of dialogue written or uttered, it perfectly sums up The Holiday: it worlds away from being a decent romantic film.

Inspired, or disgusted, by The Holiday I am compiling my person list of the ten best and worst Romantic comedies. Coming soon to a blog near you.

The only thing that made this viewing experience bearable was the sarcastic male flight attendant. As we're preparing to land he says "
I'm sorry to interrupt the end of the movie, but...oh, thank god, it's over. Please put your seats in the full, upright position. Yes, the most uncomfortable position possible."

Best flight attendant ever.

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