Last Holiday

Last Holiday

2006, PG-13, 112 min. Directed by Wayne Wang. Starring Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Giancarlo Esposito, Alicia Witt, Gérard Depardieu.

REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Jan. 13, 2006

I can tell you in two words why to see this movie, which is otherwise an unspecial Cinderella farce about a plain, shy New Orleans retail clerk’s whirlwind European winter holiday after she’s diagnosed with some improbable terminal ailment called Lampington’s Disease, and those two words are: Queen Latifah. Loosely based on J. B. Priestley’s 1950 screenplay for Last Holiday starring Alec Guinness, the film is shameless – shameless, I tell you – with its fantasy shopping sequences and sports slapstick and grand-hotel hijinks (although I was delighted by Petr Vanek, who has a Richard E. Grant quality but is blessedly taciturn, as a bellhop). Director Wang, who specializes in chick flicks (yes, we can call them that) while not helming more venturesome fare (2001’s The Center of the World), gorges the viewer on wish-fulfillment, with a palpable assist from executive producer Robert Zemeckis: Prague sprinkled in storybook snow; severe couture shopgirls who dissolve into giddy collusion as our heroine waltzes in; Depardieu as an imperious executive chef who plies Latifah with fine cuisine, appreciates her appetites, and dispenses garbled bons mots about embracing life to its fullest. ("The secret of life is butter." As if that’s news.) LL Cool J orbits the story as the good man who adores Latifah from afar and treks through an avalanche to win her love. Critics aren’t supposed to like this kind of thing. But you know what? Latifah deserves it. She’s such a relaxed and radiant presence that she sells it completely, even when her character snowboards down a black-diamond slope, mangling the soulless CEO of her department store (a somnolent Hutton) and landing in the middle of somebody’s picnic lunch. She’s a welcome change from the neurotic romantic-comedy heroines of Hollywood’s yore, not only because she makes yuppies suffer and, if I may speak frankly, isn’t a single-digit size, but also because she is luminous and confident rather than self-doubting and hysterical. She’s far better than the movie is. If we are to live in a world of movies in which women are comically diagnosed with brain diseases and discover their moxie through base jumping in the Czech Republic, let us at least have Queen Latifah’s brass to add a bass note to the treacle.

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More Wayne Wang Films
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Chinese women's relationships in the past and the present are told in parallel stories in this film based on Lisa See's bestselling novel.

Marjorie Baumgarten, July 29, 2011

Because of Winn-Dixie
There are no big surprises in this family picture, but neither is the admonition against working with children and animals appropriate here.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Feb. 18, 2005

More by Marrit Ingman
Wonder Stories
Wonder Stories

July 25, 2008

King Corn
The film’s light hand, appealing style, and simple exposition make it an eminently watchable inquiry into the politics of food, public health, and the reasons why corn has become an ingredient in virtually everything we eat.

Nov. 9, 2007


Last Holiday, Wayne Wang, Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Giancarlo Esposito, Alicia Witt, Gérard Depardieu

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