Amanda (Cameron Diaz, In Her Shoes) is a neurotic movie trailer maker who can’t cry (no matter how much she tries) and has a track record of sabotaging all her relationships. Iris (Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is a weepy, emotional wreck who’s been pining over the same man (Rufus Sewell, Tristan + Isolde) for the last three years. Fed up with their own guy problems, the pair decides to swap houses for the holidays. It’s on their respective vacations, however, that they each find the man of their dreams. Amanda meets Iris’ brother, the ever-charming, but guarded, Graham (Jude Law, Closer), and Iris meets Miles (Jack Black, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny), a film composer and proverbial sweet guy.
Watching The Holiday is essentially watching two chick flicks at one go—which would be fine by us, if both stories were good. Diaz’s half is boring and typical, and even rather annoying at times. Her ditzy-but-sweet shtick seems to have run its course since There’s Something About Mary, leaving her completely unappealing and her character unrelatable. Law, likewise, is sleeping through this role and, despite a rather mushy plot development, gives us very little to sympathize with. A shame, considering that he dazzled us with his role as the quintessential hopeless romantic in 1998’s Music from Another Room.
Ironically enough, the other half of the film—which is far sweeter and more genuine—just makes Diaz and Law’s story look so much worse. Winslet impresses, as usual, in a role that could’ve easily been aggravating to watch in the hands of a lesser actress. Even Black surprises us with a performance that’s loveable and—surprise, surprise—subtle. But the best part of the film had to have been Eli Wallach (The Godfather: Part III) as Iris’ reclusive but charming next door neighbor Arthur. His old fashioned gentlemanliness and an amazing performance made him simply a joy to watch.
While it may only be half the chick flick it could’ve been, The Holiday is still worth the price of admission based on the strength of Iris’ story alone.