Tuesday, 10 April 2007

The Holiday (2006)

The Holiday

The launch of titles on HD-DVD in the UK has been pretty pathetic, and it's only the strong batch of US releases on what is a region-free format that have kept HD-DVD alive. Typically all we've had officially released in the UK are some of the more mediocre US releases, selling at grossly inflated prices months after they've been available from import companies at a far cheaper price. It's small wonder that Blu-Ray sales are outnumbering HD-DVD by a factor of several to one with the release strategy the film companies 'supporting' HD-DVD have adopted for the format.

So when we get an HD-DVD day-and-date release with the standard definition DVD release it's time to sit up and take notice, even if the genre (romantic comedy) is hardly one that's going to benefit from the increased resolution the format gives (unless you count more visible evidence that Cameron Diaz is getting older as a benefit!) and seems an odd choice to have made as a result.

Kate Winslet plays Iris, a British lass who does a holiday home swap and lands up in Los Angeles

Rom-coms are not known for their subtlety, or believability, but The Holiday takes the levels of ridiculousness to new depths. In the world of The Holiday a junior journalist can afford a chocolate box thatched cottage in the countryside (and happily commute to London each day), editors in Hollywood can afford Beverly Hills mansions with every conceivable gimmick installed, Jude Law can't get a date, snow will fall on Christmas Day despite there having been a blazing hot sun on Christmas Eve, a retired Hollywood writer can have a well-attended awards event held exclusively for him at just hours notice over the Christmas vacation, Kate Winslet can happily fall for chubby, double-chinned Jack Black, and... well you get the drift! This is fairy tale nonsense for those fantasists who still believe in the tooth fairy and Father Christmas!

The basic premise of the film is that 'a change of address can change your life'!Iris (Kate Winslet) is a junior journalist at The Telegraph in London. She's been wasting years of her life infatuated with senior journalist Jasper (Rufus Sewell), a cartoon character sleaze-ball, who sleeps with her when convenient, but shocks her by announcing at the staff Christmas party that he has become engaged to another co-worker.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the ball-busting workaholic Amanda (Cameron Diaz) finds her live-in musician boyfriend has been sleeping around while she's been putting all her efforts into building up her career as an editor of trailers for big Hollywood movies. After ditching the boyfriend she decides she needs a break to get away and nurse her wounds, and just happens to do so at the same time that Iris is looking for somewhere to go for Christmas. So the two women swap homes and (of course!) find true love on the other side of the Atlantic from the one they've been inhabiting all their lives.

Jude Law is Iris' brother, a single parent looking for a partner

In the crazy fantasy world that is The Holiday Iris has a widowed, unfeasibly good-looking brother (Jude Law with two impossibly cute daughters who just happens to stumble in on Amanda on her first miserable day in her holiday cottage. I think you can guess where this is going to go!

Back in Los Angeles Iris makes friends with a film composer (Jack Black) who just happens to get dumped by his girlfriend around the time Iris is getting ready to return to London. I wonder how that will affect their friendship! (Not!)

It seems somehow appropriate that this film should be released over Easter, because it induces exactly the same sickly nauseous feelings you get when you've eaten too many Easter eggs. I know rom-coms are meant to be light, fluffy 'feel good' films but The Holiday is saccharine-sweet 'comedy' featuring ridiculously honourable characters and pantomime villain ex-boyfriends that take the genres to new lows in any kind of believability. You not only need to turn your brain off before diving into this film, but ideally should have had it removed too.

Cameron Diaz is Amanda, a Hollywood film editor who has just escaped a bad relationship

If you're looking for the direction to improve a squirmingly awful script you're on a sticky wicket too. This is a film that believes having two women sending each other endless emails, reading them out word for word as they appear on screen, and doing this for minutes at a time, can pass as 'entertainment'. Even when the script tries to introduce a few genuine gags (the Hollywood trailer voice-over criticising her behaviour that Amanda hears, and the spoof trailer for a brain-dead Hollywood blockbuster have potential) the director throws away the opportunity to get a few good belly-laughs by repeating the rather weak joke far too often. Subtle, this isn't, and the director seems to have forgotten the most important rule of any rom-com: NEVER have your film run for more than 90 minutes. This 'epic' clocks in at well over 2 hours!

The film does have a few redeeming features: the picture quality is excellend, and it has an excellent main cast.

Kate Winslet is never less than charming, so much so that one ALMOST falls for the situation her character finds herself in. Cameron Diaz is fine at playing her usual manic 'cooky blonde' self. Jude Law doesn't have to do much except look pretty, but the real surprise is Jack Black who, arguably for the first time in his life, tones his performance down so that one doesn't get the impression he's doing a tiresome stand-up comic routine that's been shoe-horned inappropriately into the film. If only all this were enough. Admittedly the film looks good, but with a budget of $85 million (sheesh! For a rom-com??!!!!) it damned well should!

Jack Black is a Hollywood musician who strikes up a friendship with Iris

If the film is disappointing, and overly predictable, so are the extra's: there aren't any! Not one! Not even so much as a short five minute Making of featurette. I'd go into a rant about rip-off false advertising for what the HD-DVD format was going to give us, but having sat through two hours of the film, I really didn't feel I could face any more, and the lack of any additional material is actually a distinct advantage, earning the DVD an extra point from me!

If 'chick flicks' are your thing then this might be worth a rental. But for the vast majority of us this is a time-waster of a movie with no depth, no personality, no value and absolutely no basis in any kind of reality. My advice is to avoid it and look for something else!

Rufus Sewell is the rather unsavoury Jasper, who won't commit to Iris, but won't let her go either

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