Just because a movie is set at the end of a year, that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed at other times.
A good example is “The Holiday” (streaming on Amazon Prime), writer-director Nancy Meyers’ 2006 romantic comedy that falls in line thematically with many of her other films, such as “Something’s Gotta Give” and “It’s Complicated.” In this case, she skillfully and enjoyably blends two stories by having their protagonists — an American (played by Cameron Diaz) and an Englishwoman (Kate Winslet), both suffering romantic disappointments — spontaneously trade houses for the Christmas season.
Movie-trailer maker Amanda (Diaz) puts the finish on her waning relationship when she cajoles her beau (Edward Burns) into admitting he cheated on her. Overseas, newspaper writer-editor Iris (Winslet) is shattered when she gets a tip on an engagement … that of a colleague she loves (Rufus Sewell), but who “cannot and will not love me back,” as she says in the voiceover set-up that opens the picture.
Almost as quickly as they log onto a house-trading website, the women strike a deal, and they’re on planes going in opposite directions the very next day. Diaz gets to be adorably kooky (but sometimes maybe just a touch too much) as she forcibly learns such British traits as driving on the opposite side of the road, but things get a lot better for her when iris’ lethally handsome but only semi-responsible brother Graham (Jude Law) pays a visit to his sister’s quaint cottage.
Meanwhile, as she delights in having Amanda’s relatively palatial L.A. residence for a while, Iris also makes a couple of significant acquaintances: wiseacre composer Miles (patented wiseacre Jack Black), who works with Amanda’s ex, and elderly neighbor and veteran Hollywood screenwriter Arthur (Eli Wallach, just great in one of his last major roles).
Meyers engineers all the characters and situations beautifully, and it’s a particular kick to see Winslet attempt a lighter project than her norm. Teaming her with co-star Black likely wasn’t on any other filmmaker’s bucket list, but they make a charmingly improbable couple, as evidenced by their trip to a video store where Black decides to vocalize the theme songs of various titles they peruse. (Watch for that scene’s cameo by the star of one of those movies, who reportedly just happened to walk into the store while the crew was filming.)
Diaz and Law also evoke great chemistry as their alter egos become more deeply involved. They surely are an extremely photogenic duo, and it’s easy to buy into each of their characters blossoming under the influence of the other.
Meyers’ films have detractors who believe they’re just modern fairy tales, but how many fairy tales have endured for generations? “The Holiday” has that sort of lasting quality, and those who love it really love it. And if you’re willing to go with it even a little bit, it’s not hard to see why.