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The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

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“The Holiday”: An Honest Review, Almost Two Decades Past the Release

Photo+by+Simon+Mein%2FShutterstock
Photo by Simon Mein/Shutterstock

“It is a chick flick, I think it is a very satisfying movie for women, I think they should go, take your girlfriends, don’t drag your boyfriend, I think he might be a little frustrated.” – Aisha Taylor.

“Nancy Meyers, who directed this, is to the chick flick, what Ridley Scott is to Gladiator….cliche on top of cliche, I feel bad for the guys who are going to get dragged to this movie by the women in their lives.” – Richard Roeper

Objectively speaking, we don’t really make rom-coms anymore. Not so much isn’t a lamentation but an observation of the always-changing architecture of the mainstream film industry.

Sure, we make romantic movies with comedic overtones or funny movies with schmaltzy undertones; love stories are still a mainstay of mainstream movie fare, but the formula of the romantic comedy, where we see two unlikely strangers become ideal lovers, and along the way we laugh, cry and cheer them on is something of the past.

We don’t see these movies anymore because we no longer need to sell women as bankable commodities in film. When a talented, conventionally attractive young actress or actor was on the cusp of stardom, studios would sell them to the public; the idea is that in order for them to be successful, they had to make America fall in love with them first.

It was like a debutante coming out ball; in order for someone like Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, or Molly Ringwald to sink into the movie-going consciousness, we had to feel like we could fall in love with them.

This makes Nancy Meyers’ 2007 film The Holiday an interesting case; a saccharine slice of seasonal cinema with all the hallmarks of a rom-com, the film is something of a deconstruction, or at least a reinterpretation of this enigma of gendered commercial moviemaking.

The conceit of two overworked, undervalued, lovelorn women switching homes for the holidays is a far-flung, Bechdel-breaking construct. Yet, it’s one of the better examples citing the uncanny and perplexing blips of progress in the industry.

The high-strung trailer editor and Hollywood stereotype Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz) switches her nouveau distinctly Angelino modernity for the quaint, idyllic British country home belonging to an equally amorously browbeaten Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet). A workaholic editor for The Daily Telegraph stuck on her ex and fellow columnist Jasper Bloom, Rufus Sewel, in the first of his many “good-looking guys who’s a dick” roles.

What ensues is essential rom-com fodder, the fish out of water trope, the polite English woman lost in the go-go west-coast energy, while the fashionable flatlander trying to build a fire and drive on the left side of the road in rural England, oh what could possibly go wrong, did we mention that they’re a little broken-hearted and are ripe to make a revelatory change in their lives?

While Cameron Diaz swoons for a conveniently positioned Jude Law, it’s the narrative crafted around Kate Winslet’s Iris that builds on something a bit novel. It’s as if Nancy Meyers knowingly leans into the tropes and gives less discerning viewers a freebie in the form of two gorgeous superstars necking (with the former) but doubles down with another, more compelling story where film composer Miles Dumont (Jack Black) and aging screenwriter Arthur Abbot (played wonderfully by a then 90-year old screen legend Eli Wallach) drift into Iris’ orbit.

Meyers seems to be playing with and around the constructs of the rom-com and even goes as far as to directly reference various story beats, making Wallach’s adorably cultivated character a referential conduit; at one point, he explains what a “meet cute” after their meet cute.

The Holiday isn’t brilliant, but it feels like it is saying that we can explore familiar filmic themes without relying on this idea of presenting women as box-office commodities or trying to convince us that actors as fascinating as Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black, Jude Law, and Eli Wallach are adorable, deserving of our affection, we’ve already figured that part out.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to see Margot Robbie, Anna Taylor Joy, Saoirse Ronan, or Thomasin Mackenzie subject themselves to something vacuous to convince people they were deserving of our attention, instead we got Leave No Trace (2018), Little Women (2019), Brooklyn (2015), Lady Bird (2017), and Last Night in Soho (2021). I’d say we’re coming out net positive in that department.

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