In a saccharine holiday movie, Winslet's perf is sweet

The Holiday

on December 08, 2006 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
Two depressed women switch homes and countries over the Christmas holidays and find love and happiness in the process. Amanda (Cameron Diaz) is a neurotic, high-powered LA-based movie trailer editor who's just dumped her boyfriend. Romantic Iris (Kate Winslet), who writes up the marriage notices for Britain's Daily Telegraph, has just found out that the object of her unrequited love (Rufus Sewell) is engaged. Through the internet, they hook up and decide to escape their problems by flying across the ocean to find new experiences. Predictably, things don't work out as expected.

Anyone hoping for a smart, incisive romantic comedy/drama is out of luck here. The Holiday is a drippily sentimental and contrived movie that ladles on the treacle with a particularly heavy hand and strands some good actors (Eli Wallach as an ex-screenwriter whom Iris befriends) and not so good ones (Jude Law, typically charmless as Iris's sensitive brother who becomes involved with Amanda) along the way. It also exposes Jack Black's weaknesses when called upon to play ordinary, quiet people. One senses that he wants to but can't cut loose in the pallid part of a nice guy movie composer; the role is an uncomfortable fit. Diaz, too, falters, overdoing her character, who, in a running joke, tries but cannot actually cry. She also too often falls back on her cute, bubbly persona.

It doesn't help that director Nancy Meyers ( What Women Want and the screenplays for the Father of the Bride movies) keeps hearkening back to old Hollywood films and a time when leading ladies had moxy and box office grosses were not tallied up the weekend after the movie opened. That's rich coming from one of Tinseltown's least adventurous and most commercially minded filmmakers.

Meyers is closer to the mark with her paean to tough actresses of yore in the casting of Winslet, who is cut from that same cloth. Her rounded portrait of wounded, self-deprecating Iris is a marvel, managing to rise above this sodden material. She's consistently authentic in a movie that's as fake as they come. Distributor: Sony
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black and Rufus Sewell
Director/Screenwriter: Nancy Meyers
Producers: Nancy Meyers and Bruce A. Block
Genre: Romantic comedy
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and some strong language
Running time: 138 min.
Release date: December 8, 2006

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