Monday, March 26, 2007



The Holiday
is a romantic fantasy, with a great cast, including Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law in what may be his best romantic performance, Jack Black in his first romantic role, and Eli Wallach, still spry at 90.

WARNING -- This post contains SPOILERS.

OK... it's not like any great secrets are going to be revealed... but the film depends in part on little surprises, so any information about the film may be more than you want to know before you see this film.

If you don't read on, then you should just know that in addition to being a romantic fantasy with an attractive cast and a first rate romantic-fantasy writer-director, the disk contains a first rate commentary by the writer-director,
Nancy Meyers, on both the writing and directing.


The Holiday is a romantic fantasy, where the great men are loving single dads... or sensitive composers who write a theme just for you... or cute old men as helpless and adoring as puppies; and the not-so-great men look terrific and talk seductively, but sleep with or even marry other (younger!) women. As for the women, they work hard, live in the most beautiful houses in LA or country England (all alone after they are betrayed by their men), and are miserable, trapped, insecure, and confused; yet potentially, happy, free, independent, confident, loving and lovable.

The film contains laughs and chuckles. It has some little surprises. It is well acted, nicely directed and even believable (insofar as possible). And of course it ends well.

It does not have great laughs, biting wit, deep insights into the human condition, or brilliant intensity. It's not that kind of film.

What the DVD does have is an extremely good commentary by Nancy Meyers. (It also has a "making the film," film which has a very interesting description of the English locations, but suffers from too many "he's great", "she's great", "he's so funny", "she's so funny" "interviews.") Meyers discusses in great detail the decisions that went into writing and directing the film, including the casting process, the choice of music, costuming, sets, and so on. As with most commentaries, it is very interesting to observe what is talked about and what is not discussed. Here, it is the details that concern her, not a discussion of the whole concept of the film -- the fact that she is making a romantic fantasy about real people (something slightly different from a romantic comedy about real people -- eg Clueless or Sleepless in Seattle -- or a romantic fantasy about fabulous people-- eg Pretty Woman). The slender reality of the basic premise holds together, I suspect, because of the richness of detail described so well in the commentary. So many of the details she mentions are so subtle they are almost subliminal, and almost impossible to notice explicitly if you have not been clue'd into them, yet they do seem to really help ground the film.

A pleasant movie, probably best around a fireplace with popcorn during the winter holidays... Yes, it probably will make for seasonal repeat performances on television -- one of the perks of using "holiday" in the title. And it is not by accident that the movie ends with Kate Winslet, just barely audible as the camera pulls back from the cute country cottage where all the principal characters are having a party, saying, "Happy New Year!"

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