It doesn’t seem right to call this a romantic comedy but that is how most would refer to it. Probably the most frustrating thing about it is that it could have been a good romantic comedy. It had the ingredients. It had the actors. So what went wrong?
The Holiday (2006)
Directed by Nancy Meyers
This is one of those movies that exists in that overly populated twilight land of films that aren’t particularly good and aren’t particularly bad. The Holiday (2006) is just kind of there, inoffensive and forgettable.
It’s also one of those movies that is referred to as a romantic comedy (a rom-com) yet it isn’t all that funny and the romance is … well, treacly at best. It’s romantic only in the most superficial way.
It should be so much better given the cast it has (including Eli Wallach who, to some degree, steals the movie despite his age – or maybe because of it.)
The film’s problem appears to be that rather than have the romance develop out of the situations, the romance is imposed on the situations. The movie even has a scene where the “cute meet” of romantic comedies is referred to, yet the film’s “cute meets” (there are two, sort of) are not overly imaginative. They are simply functional.
On IMDb they provide this synopsis of the movie: “Two women troubled with guy-problems swap homes in each other’s countries, where they each meet a local guy and fall in love.”
The movie generally has a kind of paint-by-numbers approach to the rom-com formula and a pedestrian approach to characterization. Yes, the primary female characters of Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz) and Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet) are troubled and a good deal more comedy could have mined from this, I think.
But the film is more interested in romance of the sentimental variety. So the two women “each meet a local guy” and here is where the real trouble comes. The two guys are boring (Jude Law as Graham and Jack Black as Miles. It is worth noting that neither has a last name in the movie, possibly reflecting how undeveloped these characters are.)
In other words, the movie is not so much romantic comedy as it is romantic fantasy where it is not so much characters you get as it is caricatures.
There is little or no tension in the romantic relationships. Compare that to what you find in classic romantic comedies like The Philadelphia Story, When Harry Met Sally or The Shop Around the Corner.
With little tension, it is no surprise the comedic element is minimal. And it’s no surprise that the romance comes across as bland and predictable.
Given how the two women’s stories begin in The Holiday, the much more interesting male characters were Edward Burns’ Ethan and Rufus Sewell’s Jasper Bloom. Those two characters would have provided tension – the stuff of great romantic comedies. The colourless characters we get as the love interests (Graham and Miles) are the stuff of fantasy.
And that is where the movie goes off the rails.
As it is, The Holiday lives in the twilight land referred to above. It is watchable, thanks to the actors, but unremarkable. It’s a 21st century equivalent of a fairy tale where two princesses meet their princes and all of them live dully everafter.