Another charming romantic comedy from writer-director Nancy Meyers, The Holiday, however feels more about saying all the right things and finding love unexpectedly in the right places during the Yuletide season.
From her opening voice-over, Iris (Kate Winslet) toils for a London newspaper, able to enjoy a rural Surrey cottage. Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist) is a high-profiled columnist and close to Iris, apparently until his engagement is revealed at a party where Iris tries to catch up on her journalistic responsibilities.
A home-swapping website might be the thing for the forlorn Iris who hates her life. Cameron Diaz's Amanda, who owns a movie advertising company (working on the marketing for a new movie with Lindsay Lohan), lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend composer Ethan (Edward Burns) sleeping on the couch (apparently there's no "guest" room to use).
The exchange between Iris and Amanda occurs in short order, and, to no surprise, they discover things about themselves they didn't know. Amanda is drawn to Iris's hunk of a brother Graham (Jude Law of All the King's Men). And, Iris strikes up a friendship with an aging screenwriter (Eli Wallach) and a movie composer, a goofy, yet likeable Jack Black (King Kong).
Meyers makes this all a lush, compatible confection from the wonderful looks of the English countryside and upscale Southern California (Iris really likes the "shades" in her new spacious residence). Inebriation and meeting cute has a sweetness to it and the challenges of aging can be gently met. One wishes her plotting could have been less diagrammed (though careful to details like crying and walking in snow in high heels) and tightenend up considerably.
Still, as in Something's Gotta Give and What Women Want, this chick flick has identifiable characters as attractive and wealthy as they may be. Winslet becomes more sunny in L.A. after giving the unfortunate Iris the aches of someone like Bridget Jones. Diaz does a variation of her role as the free-spirited, irresponsible sister of In Her Shoes, endowing Amanda with qualities beyond the needful busybody.
Law is able to make Graham quite pleasing (he, like Amanda, is what most women really like) though the character is somewhat devious for a while - that is later explained. And, Black retains a modicum of mischievousness in his visage, though laudably more calm as he warms to Iris.
If there is a movie made for popcorn this is it, as Meyers lets us snuggle to these characters' troubles even though the outcome is apparent as far as it is from L.A. to snowy Surrey. Broken-hearted relationships will try to be mended. Still, there are cute "showbiz" interludes, from a reaction of a star in a video store while Iris listens to a crooning of "The Graduate," the times Iris is moved in the presence of Wallach's achievements, and humorous inserts of Amanda's imagination in narration trailer form. The Holiday is attractive escapism, more adorable than thoughtful, just like the "Napkin Man."