The Austin Chronicle

The Holiday

Rated PG-13, 138 min. Directed by Nancy Meyers. Starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Ed Burns, Rufus Sewell.

REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Dec. 8, 2006

If “talking about relationships” is equivalent to “being in love,” this is the most romantic movie ever. You’ll love it. It has a snowy storybook cottage in England with a cute puppy dog and a little red Mini you can drive whimsically on the wrong side of the road, and Jude Law stumbles in drunkenly one night, available for sex but not at all pushy about it. And there’s another part, too, with a villa in Hollywood, where the curmudgeonly and moderately infirm old screenwriter next door (Wallach) will be your empowerment guru and you get to hang out with a cute sort of art guy (Black, in toothless, charming mode) who makes you laugh in the video store until you finally realize you’re made for each other. (He has a girlfriend – that bitch Shannyn Sossamon, who is so not to be trusted – but maybe they’ll break up.) Writer/director Meyers’ follow-up to Something’s Gotta Give mines the same go-girl terrain but is far less interesting narratively, with stock characterizations and a blandly upbeat vibe; with all due respect to the message of cheer inside, the movie is as conventional as a corporate Christmas card. It’s cute enough, but it lacks any sort of spontaneity or surprise. Of course you know there will be a happy ending, but you also know you’ll cut to a roomful of properly matched white people dancing ecstatically to Motown; freed of the crippling inhibitions and self-doubt they have discussed at length in the talky script (“I’m not sure I fall in love. Not like other people do.”), they will do the bump and laugh uproariously, and the camera will trickle backward out of a snowy window. If this is what you want in a movie about love, the most important topic on earth, you will not be disappointed. In any event, it’s hard to find fault with the cast, who do provide much-needed elements of freshness and emotional authenticity. There’s pleasure to be found in Winslet’s transformation from snowbound office drudge to L.A. lady, as when her character unselfconsciously (and somewhat unattractively) belly flops with a running start onto the giant bed in Diaz’s villa. She’s open and accessible and a little geeky. Too bad the script keeps reminding us of her “gumption” instead of allowing it to show. Across the pond, Diaz and Law have all the chemistry Winslet and Black don’t – amazing but true – and while Diaz wrinkles her nose and trips over her luggage, Law entirely sells himself as a good idea, romantically, or at least worth the risk. His is the standout performance, probably because it’s quiet and reflective and nuanced amidst the flurries of relationship talk.

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