Why ‘The Holiday’ Is the Christmas Romance Blueprint

Cinema. Film. Movies. Emotion-inducing sequences of meticulously selected imagery, lengthy scripts, and symphonic soundtracks. Are you foaming at the mouth like I am?

Dearest movie lovers, I present to you a December comfort film: “The Holiday.” This 2006 masterpiece holds two sets of romances, the first igniting in an English cottage between workaholic movie trailer producer Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and kindhearted single dad Graham (Jude Law). The second romance features Iris (Kate Winslet) as she mourns unrequited love, and is then confronted with a far more fitting and fun partner in Miles (Jack Black… that’s right, JACK BLACK!), who works in film scores and music production.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Does it sound like a cheesy Hallmark film? If so, you may be sorely mistaken. The expertise of composer Hans Zimmer (responsible for the soundtracks to “Inception,” “Dunkirk,” and multiple “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, among others) elevates this rom-com to new heights with moving melodies and bright tempos. Such prime accompaniment is a beautiful choice for a number of reasons, one of them being Miles’ occupation which populates much of the subject matter of the conversations he and Iris have. One of the most fun scenes in the film presents Iris and Miles walking around a Blockbuster as Miles picks up DVDs and sings their famous orchestral melodies using Jack Black’s signature humorous twang. Kate Winslet’s laughter and reactions appear almost as though she did not need to act. Jack Black is said to have improvised some of this, as well as the famous “accidental boob graze” he makes note of while he and Iris dine together at a restaurant.

The premise of the film lies in Iris and Amanda experiencing disappointment from the men in their lives, causing them to log onto their computers and sign up for a house-swap vacation. The next day, Iris flies to Los Angeles and Amanda flies to London. Iris’s brother Graham pays a drunken visit to her cottage that night, surprised to find Amanda opening the door. Romance ensues in the following days. Iris meets a neighboring elderly man named Arthur Abbott, who happens to be a retired Oscar-winning screenwriter. Miles meets Iris at her Los Angeles lodging, thinking he was going to see his coworker Amanda. As Iris, Miles and Arthur become friends, the lovebirds excitedly prepare Arthur for a gala he has been invited to speak at after spending years off the grid.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Iris laments her brokenheartedness resulting from a man back home never seeing her or loving her, despite her devotion to him. In turn, Arthur gives her a filmic analogy: “Iris, in the movies, we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason, you are behaving like the best friend.” Upon this advice, Iris comes to the realization: “You’re so right. You’re supposed to be the leading lady of your own life, for God’s sake!”

The term Arthur coins for what embodies a true leading lady is “gumption.” Such zest and bold-spiritedness eventually overtakes Iris at the moment in which she regains the reins of her life. I get chills every time I witness her both literally and figuratively slamming the door on the thing that was standing in her way.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Amanda’s plight lies more in her lack of brokenheartedness. Amanda has not shed a tear for years. A taunting movie trailer narrator commentates on her faults as a glimpse into her inner psyche. The campy theatricalism of this sequence makes its message all the more powerful since it is delivered in the very format she edits for a living. Amanda and Graham’s initial one-night stand blossoms into love, but the two are wary of Amanda’s looming return to Los Angeles and the distance it will create. Spoiler alert: Amanda’s first cry in years causes her to realize that some loves are worth fighting for and staying with.

While each leading lady may appear to have abundant hardships and despair, there is no sense of melancholy in “The Holiday.” This film walks the tightrope of balance between lighthearted silliness and cinematic satisfaction, without teetering too deeply into conflict or heartache. The acting performances are tinged with melodrama but hold an essence of tenderness. The settings are contrasting paradises: one of cozy warmth in a snowy English village, CDs and wine glasses, and Jude Law’s “Mr. Napkinhead;” the other of sunny Los Angeles skies, breezy days, a shining blue pool, and Jack Black’s “Roodle-deedle-doos.” This movie provides healthy escapism at its finest, and a soundtrack to give its viewer gumption for the holiday season. I hope you view it this month, and I hope you are reminded that you are the leading individual in the film of your life.

“The Holiday” is available to stream on Hulu Plus.

By Risa Bolash

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