Cutesy-pie romance is surprisingly zany

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Cutesy-pie romance is surprisingly zany

Gimmicky romance movies performed their cutesy invasion of cyberspace in “You’ve Got Mail,” and the upcoming “The Holiday” is another example of the Information Age love story, this time with Craigslist-like message boards as its target ― specifically, online home exchanges.
Two women who have had recent, awful break-ups, one a British society editor living in a pastoral country cottage (Kate Winslet), the other an editor of film trailers living in a swank Beverly Hills palace (Cameron Diaz), switch places for two weeks in an attempt to escape their man troubles.
Of course, while on holiday, they both find men who really deserve them almost immediately (Jack Black and Jude Law, respectively), and no 5-year-old alive could be startled by how it all turns out. No heavy musings on the nature of love here.
And yet, it’s all sort of fun.
The film gets its driving energy from Nancy Meyers writing and then casting against expectations. In this sort of film, the Brit is stereotypically the collected one, the American, the emotional, shallow one. But Meyers writes her British newspaper editor, Iris, as a complete doormat, hung up on a man who’s got her hooked on a line and can’t resist toying with it. The American is the rich, strong, self-made woman in Meyers’ script.
But then Meyers casts Diaz, who has one character ― an uber-cute ball of energy ― in the strong role of Amanda and Winslet ― who is, no offense to Diaz, an actual actor ― as the basket case.
Diaz still has her moments of over-the-top pouting, and Winslet’s unbridled glee at moving into her American mansion is difficult to watch. But the casting against type makes the characters seem much more human and complicated than those of the usual exasperatingly shallow romance (see “A Good Year” ― by which, of course, I mean don’t).
There are other atypical plot elements, too. Iris spends most of the first part of her time in LA not with Black’s character, Miles, but with a fictional Golden Age Hollywood writer played by Eli Wallach, teaching him to walk again. By this time Amanda has already slept with Iris’s brother (Law) ― who later turns out to be a widower with two daughters.
A few winks through the fourth wall, including a voice in Amanda’s head that successively narrates the episodes of her life in the form of a trailer (played by the real “trailer guy,” Hal Douglas), add an unexpected zaniness.
But after watching the trailer for this movie a few months back I expected it to be completely awful. As it turns out the trailer uses several takes that do not appear in the film ― a common enough practice, except that Jack Black looks and sounds pretentious and fake in the trailer but reasonably sympathetic in the movie. The creation of these trailers is a magical and mysterious process, but it is a funny coincidence that this one was so unappealing when one of the main characters is supposed to edit the things.
“The Holiday” (transliterated as “Romantic Holiday” in Korea) is nothing more than typical fantasy wish fulfillment romance ― but it is unusually entertaining for its genre.

by Ben Applegate
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