Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Graded on a curve, a decent Holiday
The Holiday, which I can't help figuring was crafted to imitate the trans-Atlantic appeal and cast of Love Actually, isn't as funny as it ought to be, and you can never really forget you're watching perfectly made-up movie stars in drop-dead-gorgeous settings and perfectly calculated shots, yet I was willing to forgive it these faults for being downright sweet and charming by turns. I am of course more easily swayed by British actors swooning over Americans and also by little British girls in pinafores saying the cutest of things in the cutest of ways. But still, I think the movie deserves credit for creating some fun natural-feeling moments amid the more predictable and contrived ones: those moments when one thinks, "I do that. I'm like that sometimes. Even when I'm not imagining a movie camera hidden behind the teakettle in the reality show that is my life." Directed by Nancy Meyers, it includes a great performance by Eli Wallach as an old screenwriter from the studio-system days, whom I've known more from evenings of Selected Shorts at Symphony Space than from the big screen (this being my deficiency, not his). All the lead characters get to be wonderfully successful commercial artists of some kind (the Brits get the words, the Yanks get the moving pictures), and there is something fun about having the Cameron Diaz character randomly burst into mental trailer-mode, where her life is boiled down by the famous announcer guy. And Hans Zimmer, who wrote the lush score, had to love that Jack Black's character is a movie-score composer (Jack Black a music nut? Never!) who tells his girlfriend not to mess with the Morricone on the convertible's CD player. There were other small jokes that you'd be more likely to find in a novel than a Hollywood rom-com that made me want to cheer for the piece a little more. And I thought it ended just right, the way a lot of old movies did, before overdoing and without overly implying any happily-ever-afters.