The Holiday (2006) Christmas Movie Reviews

5 Kernels

It’s that time of the year when I watch my favorite movies for the holidays. This is the first of a few reviews I’ll be posting before December 25.

Right at the top of my list is “The Holiday,” staring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black.  Though I never saw the movie in the theaters when it was released, I stumbled across it a few years later on DVD and fell in love.

Every Christmas season, I dust it off, pop the corn, and watch an endearing tale of lonely singles navigating the world trying to find love. The movie contains some iconic lines that only miserable singles can relate to, but also other lines that will stay with you for years to come.

Let me preface by saying that Cameron Diaz has never been a favorite of mine on screen.  This is probably the only movie I’ve ever watched where I fell in love with her portrayal of a character named Amanda Woods.  Amanda is a rich woman with a business of making movie trailers, who has recently broken up with her cheating boyfriend.  Out of the blue, she decides to take a vacation and get away for Christmas.

To plan her trip, she sits down and puts in a search term in Google about where to travel.  Since she wants to go where they speak English, she picks England.  Her search takes her from Los Angeles to a small cottage in Surrey, England, where she does a house swap arrangement with another pathetic, brokenhearted single played by Kate Winslet, whose character is Iris Simpkins. I was surprised to find out that there are services where you can swap houses with people from around the world.  It’s a scary prospect, as far as I’m concern, but works perfectly for the movie.

From the onset, the single humor is spot on.  As they correspond via instant chat on computer making arrangements, a few iconic lines are spoken:

Iris: [reading aloud what she types to Amanda during live chat discussing home exchange] I’m Iris, by the way. I’m very normal, neat-freak, healthy, non-smoker, single…

[stops, fighting back tears; then adds to herself]
Iris: Hate my horrible life!

Amanda: I’m Amanda.

[to herself]

Amanda: Loner, loser and complicated wreck!

They switch homes and their lives are drastically changed forever.

Poor Iris is the typical woman caught up in unrequited love with a man she adores, who is now engaged to marry another person. Iris is really pathetic, and Kate plays a normal, down-to-earth woman with endearing qualities as well.  She arrives at Amanda’s huge home in LA and is overwhelmed by its size and beauty.  She meets Miles, played by Jack Black. He writes music and loves a woman who continually breaks his heart.  Jack Black, by the way, has never been one of my favorites either.  This is the first serious role I’ve seen him play and actually enjoyed.

Iris and Miles have much in common and spend time together helping each other get over their pathetic love interests.  Another interesting character that comes into Iris’ life is one of Amanda’s neighbors, Arthur Abbott (played by Eli Wallach who recently passed away). They strike up an unusual friendship.  Arthur helps Iris find her self worth again, and she helps him in many ways.

Kate Winslet gets to deliver some fantastic lines that are frankly haunting.  Here is a favorite:

Iris: I suppose I think about love more than anyone really should. I am constantly amazed by its sheer power to alter and define our lives. It was Shakespeare who also said “love is blind.” Now that is something I know to be true. For some quite inexplicably, love fades; for others love is simply lost. But then of course love can also be found, even if just for the night. And then, there’s another kind of love: the cruelest kind. The one that almost kills its victims. Its called unrequited love. Of that I am an expert.

In England, Amanda meets Iris’ brother, Graham, played by the handsome Jude Law.  Gosh, he’s awful cute in this movie.  Amanda is a different sort of woman.  She doesn’t cry and has trouble falling in love. Because her parents were divorced early in her life, Amanda is cynical when it comes to relationships. She is convinced that she cannot love like others. Graham enters her life and everything changes, but he has two secrets that Amanda knows nothing about.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll keep that little spoiler under lock and key.  All I will say is that it a very touching and endearing.

I think why I love this movie so much is because it’s emotionally moving in many ways, the dialogue is great, it’s filled with truths and profound thoughts about love lost, love gained, and love wasted.  Among the seriousness of it, too, is the humor and lighthearted scenes that make you sniffle.

The movie is set during Christmas time, but it’s not heavily Christmas oriented. If you haven’t seen The Holiday, I highly recommend it. Now streaming on Amazon for a whopping $2.99.

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