Watching The Holiday is a little like ordering a sticky cinnamon bun: You know the gooey, warm sweetness will taste good, but you'll feel guilty eating it.
In other words, The Holiday probably falls under the "guilty pleasure" category. Its not a classic romantic comedy by any standards, but darn it, it still makes you smile more often than you want to admit. The story centers on two women: Iris (Kate Winslet), a British newspaper columnist hopelessly in love with a man about to marry someone else, and Amanda (Cameron Diaz), a highly successful L.A. career woman who just broke up with her latest cheating boyfriend. Being at the right place at the right time, these two gals meet online at a home exchange website, and impulsively switch homes for the holiday. Shortly after arriving at their destinations, both women find the last thing either wants or expects: A new romance. Amanda is charmed by Iris' handsome brother Graham (Jude Law) and Iris, with inspiration provided by legendary screenwriter Arthur (Eli Wallach), mends her heart when she meets film composer Miles (Jack Black). Oh, just go ahead and take a big gooey bite. It's good for the soul.
The biggest problem in The Holiday is, unfortunately, the castingwhich is real shame because you really want the chemistry to zing. They get it right with Winslet and Law, who are both trying something a little different as romantic leads. Winslet, in fact, admitted to Reuters this was one of the more nerve-wracking parts she's ever played because she couldn't hide behind an American accent or a costume, playing someone closer to, well, herself. But you would think these two Oscar-nominees had been making these type movies all along, especially the insanely gorgeous Law, who should have every woman swooning with his sensitivity. Where they get it wrong is with the Americans, as the Brits just act giant circles around them. Black is clearly out of place. Although being very charming and funny, looking like he made Winslet laugh a LOT (and who wouldn't with that guy around?), their connection on screen is somewhat amiss. Diaz comes off looking even worse. Even though she's the veteran of the romantic comedy (There's Something About Mary, My Best Friend's Wedding), her screechy, neurotic, klutzy Amanda is in no way appealing. You have to scratch your head wondering why Law's Graham would fall so hard for her.
What does make The Holiday work, however, is writer/director Nancy Meyers. She's proven herself quite adept at the genre, with films such as What Women Want and Something's Gotta Give under her belt. With The Holiday, Meyers skillfully crafts individual moments of refreshing comedy as well as heartening scenes of blossoming romance. The initial seduction scene between Amanda and Graham is particularly sweet and quirky, with the crisp dialogue flying at a nice clip. And isn't it comforting to see a holiday movie minus feuding neighbors, commerciality or any sort of mean-spiritedness? But Meyers has the tendency to go more for the superficial rather than dig deep with her characters. The Holiday has a one of those glossy, rosy glows whose only aim is to make you feel good. True, the film will mostly speak volumes to the women in the audience (that's a polite way of saying its a "chick flick") but oh well. It's fluff may be a nice reprieve during the hustle and bustle of the season.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.