Despite not buying the central premise for a second, and encountering some tropes that plague the work of Nancy Meyers, Kiki Penoyer finds a lot to like about The Holiday.
The Holiday isn’t the best Christmas movie of all time, obviously, because that’s Die Hard. It’s not even my personal favorite Christmas movie, as that is The Ref. [Editor’s Note: Hey! Mine, too!]
It is, however, literally the only film on the planet where I remember finding Jack Black remotely likeable, and that counts for something, right?
My pre-rewatch memories of this movie are pretty foggy: Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz decide to swap houses for Christmas, Kate Winslet meets Jack Black and Eli Wallach and takes back her life, and then I think we all move back to England? I think Cameron Diaz meets Jude Law, but I remember nothing about their actual storyline. I was pretty obsessed with Kate Winslet at the time, so maybe that’s why I don’t remember. (Spoilers: Foreshadowing.)
In rewatching it, I still have so many questions about the entire premise. Movie Trailer Mastermind Cameron Diaz is breaking up with Knockoff Paul Rudd because he’s a dirtbag, but he claims it’s her fault for not being available for sex whenever he wants, while journalist Kate Winslet awkwardly finds out her own dirtbag ex, Knockoff Ian McShane, is engaged to someone else—a fact she learns when their supervisor awkwardly calls Kate out in the middle of the office holiday party to ask her to report on the engagement, which seems to me like a g i g a n t i c HR violation. Movie Composer Jack Black, meanwhile, is busy composing scores for the most boring movie makeout scenes of all time and saying sassy things to his girlfriend, who has no lines for most of the movie, but who is obviously going to be a villain because she’s sporting the mid-2000s Powerbitch Haircut that all bad girls had in movies back then.
Though the first chunk of the film is filled with really clunky exposition and clichés for which I do not have time—can we all agree the “Oh god, a First Edition of A Book! ONLY YOU HAVE EVER THOUGHT OF THIS BECAUSE ONLY YOU GET ME!” trope is boring and old now? —it does introduce us to a fun storytelling device that I had forgotten: Because Kate Winslet is a journalist, she narrates her own life in snippets of prosey voiceover monologue; because Cameron Diaz makes movie trailers for a living, her internal narration is an action-packed trailer narrated by a stereotypical Movie Trailer Guy. Aside from being an interesting perspective into both of these women’s minds and how they operate differently—far more interesting than the obnoxious Look How High-Maintenance Cameron Diaz Is She Likes To Walk In Heels In The Snow Hahaha What An Idiot montage when she first gets to England—it’s also a chance to examine their unconventional careers for women in a romantic comedy. Kate Winslet isn’t anybody’s secretary; she’s a top dog at her place of business, evidenced by her big-ass office and how highly everyone around her praises her work. Cameron Diaz isn’t a struggling actress or a put-upon PA—she cuts action movie trailers full of explosions and gunfire, and is good enough at it to have bought herself a big-ass mansion next door to Eli Wallach. They’re both extremely successful in their careers, but without being heartless villains who’ve had to isolate all their friends and families to get there! WHAT A CONCEPT!
Now, the actual plot of this movie, to this day, confounds the fuck out of me. From what little I remembered, I had assumed the two of them were friends or at least friends-of-friends, so obviously they had some reason to go, “Oh, okay, yeah, swapping houses with this person won’t be weird.” NOPE THEY’RE STRANGERS. IT’S DEFINITELY WEIRD.
Cameron decides she’s going to take the first vacation of her life so she can get out of L.A. for Christmas, and finds some house-swap website where Kate Winslet had listed her CUTE AS FUCK cottage in Surrey. Kate Winslet has also never taken a vacation in her life, but insists that said cottage is only available for a full swap, with both parties switching houses, cars, clothes, everything. Since we spend a lot of time talking about how she never leaves home, I’m having a hard time buying that she would’ve been willing to list her residence only under such extreme circumstances; more importantly, A STRANGER MESSAGES YOU ON THE INTERNET AND ASKS TO TRADE HOUSES WITH YOU AND YOU JUST DO IT?! These two don’t even meet in person or talk on the phone prior to the swap—they are in a vague chat room, tell each other their names and addresses, and BOTH OF THEM JUST INSTANTLY BELIEVE THE OTHER PERSON IS TELLING THE TRUTH.
TBH, if I saw that cute-ass house on the internet, I would assume it was a stock photo or posted by a murderer. This is what, 2006? By now, y’all should just assume that any person you meet on the internet claiming to be a harmless woman your own age is probably a middle-aged dude named Stephen with a basement full of shit he doesn’t want the cops to see, or perhaps a sexually-frustrated thirteen-year-old named Tyler.
AND ALSO, why are you both so cavalier about handing over your house and car to someone whose insurance you didn’t even bother to check? How do you know they’re not a heroin-dealing arsonist with a glove compartment full of unpaid speeding tickets? AND KATE WINSLET HAS A DOG! THERE ARE LITERALLY NO CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH I WOULD TRUST A STRANGER FROM THE INTERNET WITH MY BELOVED PET(S) FOR TWO WEEKS. LIKE???? LMAO with how much time Cameron Diaz spends going on dates with Jude Law, I am 100% sure that dog is not getting fed and walked with any sort of regularity. THIS IS WHY WE DON’T LEAVE OUR PETS WITH STRANGERS FROM THE INTERNET.
And ALSO ALSO. Based on the surprised and confused looks on the faces and family of everyone these two women meet, neither of them bothered to tell anyone there was going to be a stranger wandering around their house. Said friends and family, all of whom repeatedly mention that neither Kate nor Cameron ever go anywhere ever, all simply frown confusedly and then accept what they’re told at face value. Why doesn’t anyone call the police? This is a HUGE red flag. “Oh, I was supposed to have a meeting with Cameron Diaz today, and she’s really, really intense about her work and loves it more than anything else in her life, but you say you met her on the internet YESTERDAY and now she’s in ENGLAND in spite of the fact that she HAS NEVER LEFT HOME IN HER LIFE? …yeah that seems totally legit, nice to meet you stranger, wanna have a Meet Cute where I pull a piece of dirt off your eyeball?” Like seriously, have y’all never watched an episode of SVU in your lives? This is literally the definition of Probable Cause.
OKAY WHATEVER suspension of disbelief, blah blah blah. Let’s talk about my favorite part of this movie: the montage where it’s just the ladies and no men. Cameron Diaz spends her first night in England getting fucked up and eating junk food in bed while she watches Little Britain in a giant sweater (MY IDEAL FRIDAY NIGHT TBH) and Kate Winslet spends her first day in America sleeping in Cameron’s giant-ass down comforter and enjoying her giant-ass pool and not putting on a bra. Nobody’s jumping up and down on a bed wearing boy shorts and a tiny shirt, nobody’s dancing around with her ass to the camera—Kate and Cameron are normal women doing normal women shit. More of this, please.
Anyway, there’s also some boys in this movie: Drunk Jude Law shows up in the middle of the night, and Cameron Diaz just lets him in because he is probably too cute to be a murderer and she believes his story about being Kate’s brother, and CAMERON DIAZ IT IS 2006 YOU KNOW BETTER THAN TO OPEN DOORS FOR STRANGERS WHEN YOU ARE HOME ALONE. SVU HAS BEEN ON FOR SEVEN YEARS BY NOW. COME ON, GIRL.
Then Kate Winslet ALSO lets a complete stranger in, when Jack Black pulls up to the front gate claiming to have a meeting on-site and KATE WINSLET JUST LETS HIM IN AND GOES OUTSIDE TO MEET HIM AND DOESN’T EVEN THINK TWICE ABOUT IT. KATE. KATE. HONEY. YOU DON’T KNOW HIM. WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
Oh and then also Cameron Diaz gives alcohol to an obviously overserved Jude Law and has sex with him while he’s drunk AF and then he praises her dislike of foreplay as being an attractive quality and I think this might be why I don’t remember much about their half of the movie. I’m pretty sure I blocked it out. #enddaterapeasaromanticdevice
On to Kate Winslet’s plot, the part I DO remember liking: She meets Eli Wallach, who helps her see that she’s way too interesting to be hung up on a dumbass who only talks to her when he needs something from her. Jack Black seems like an okay dude and makes her laugh and seems pretty chill for Jack Black…and then when his girlfriend inevitably is terrible to him, he complains about how being a Decent Guy is what gets him into trouble because he always falls for Bad Girls and then starts walking around in an actual fedora and hahahahah forget everything I said earlier because fuck this guy.
But of course, this is a romantic comedy, so in spite of the fact that Jude Law didn’t mention to Sexual Predator Cameron Diaz that he has two adorable children with great side-eye (OBVIOUSLY it was cute that he lied to her!), and in spite of the fact that Jack Black straight ditches Kate Winslet in the middle of a date to go see his shitty ex (OBVIOUSLY he’s just sensitive!), and in spite of the fact that we’ve only known each other two weeks AND WE ARE ALL LUCKY THAT NONE OF US IS A MURDERER, everyone ends up back in England and living happily ever after, because love only exists in England and L.A. is a soulless hellhole (at least that’s what I think the takeaway is here.)
….except Eli Wallach, whose friendship is the focal point of Kate Winslet’s story, and is a character we straight-up abandon and who doesn’t get to go to England for the Fancy New Year’s Eve montage. 😦 Sorry, Eli.
There are other Christmas movies that hold up better on rewatch—Jingle All the Way is still hilarious, and anyone that disagrees with me is wrong and has no joy in their heart, The Ref will always have Kevin Spacey beating up a Christmas tree with a fire poker and what is there not to love about that, and I will still giggle like an idiot watching Rowan Atkinson meticulously bag a hideous necklace even though Love, Actually is problematic and almost everyone in it is a garbage person. The Holiday suffers from several tropes and images that have since been firmly shoved into the Ew Ew No Thank You category, and that’s really unfortunate. And the premise MAKES. NO. GODDAMN. SENSE.
But. Kate Winslet’s accent is beautiful, Jude Law in general is beautiful, and Eli Wallach is fucking adorable and doesn’t get enough credit for being in this movie and delivering a great speech reminding Kate Winslet that she has every right to be the main character in her own life and not allow herself to fall into the trap of behaving like a thinly-written supporting part. And we should all be paying VERY close attention to how much better these female characters are than typical rom-com women and how their stories are told; it’s refreshing to see women doing something unexpected, be super good at it, and not publicly giving it up at the end of the movie in order to have love or a family. It’s also exciting to see women doing stuff just for them—lounging in a comfy-ass bed, dancing around in a sweater with no attempt to be sexy, spending an entire day watching movies just for funzies without it being ~*Netflix and chill.*~ And honestly, it’s really nice that, aside from on TRULY hideous montage of Cameron Diaz being spastic trying to cry while Kate Winslet contemplates killing herself by inhaling fumes off the gas stove, these women are not wallowing endlessly in their breakup sorrows waiting for a new man to come along and scoop them up. They’re sad as fuck, and it shows, but they decide to do something really nice for themselves, which is…really unusual in this genre.
…but seriously. Everyone in this movie is too damn trusting and I worry for them.