Shivers go up and down my spine when holiday movies use words like “heartwarming” in their ads. I’ve seen enough of them to know what that really means. Usually “heartwarming” actually translates to saccharine. Now combine heartwarming AKA saccharine, with a romantic comedy set during the holidays; Add in one dancing for joy scene, usually in a kitchen or just after receiving some good news on the phone, and you have The Holiday, the latest romantic comedy from evil genius Nancy Meyers.
The Holiday combines all manner of romantic comedy stereotypes. There is the fish-out-of-water routine as English Rose Kate Winslett and California cutie Cameron Diaz decide to trade homes (and countries) for the holidays to help themselves heal from failed relationships. There’s the above-mentioned dancing, the odd pairings—could it ever really work out between Winslett and Jack Black?—the predictable pairings—why wouldn’t it work out between Diaz and Jude Law?—and lots of beautiful homes, great scenery and even some cute kids.
Why then did this movie bug me so much? I think it probably has something to do with its inherent misogyny. At the heart of The Holiday, lurking just under the glitzy surface is the idea that a woman isn’t complete unless she has a man in her life. Both female leads are successful women with careers and lives and yet both only really feel complete in the company of men.
The Holiday is formulaic, too long by half an hour and if all holidays were like this I would never leave my house again.