A regular reader of these reviews might notice I don’t watch a lot of romantic comedies, or rom coms. I recently went on a bit of a tear just to see if I liked them. As with any other genre, there are certain tropes that need to be at least touched upon, rules of the road that give fans what they’re looking for. In this case, it would be a few chuckles, a few moments of very slightly bated breath as we worry the two main characters might not really get together. The viewer knows full well on a higher level that they will get together, but just for a little while there is the tiniest feeling of suspense. Rom coms create cognitive dissonance. Something Americans have become accustomed to these last few decades. At the end, though, all is well and sweet romance has taken root and blossomed.
The trick, of course, is taking a very well-worn path and finding something unusual in it. One I watched had a surprisingly deceased character. As I am like any other viewer who wants a romance at the end, that was not a fun movie for me. Another, an exceptionally uncommon lesbian rom com, followed the standard tropes successfully except for making the story uncomfortable for lesbians and making one of the characters uncomfortably irritating.
Chemistry between the main characters who are required to struggle against love until they fall hard at the last moment is really important. That’s why I was surprised to see Jack Black in one of the romantic roles. He’s a very funny guy, but you would think this is not in his wheelhouse. You’d be wrong. The other romance starved characters are Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Cameron Diaz. The unusual in the path is to have two fully realized relationships.
The four leads are a romantic in unrequited love, a bitter jilted love, a player, and one who declares themselves anti-romance. All are highly creative people, successful in their career and therefore perfectly capable of leaving their job right at Christmas and travelling half way around the world at the drop of a hat. Funny thing. I never had that luxury. The two women, worn to a nub by work and love, swap houses between snowy Surrey in England and sunny LA in the states.
The whole set up is quickly and hilariously arranged by writer and director Nancy Myers, who has been turning out good movies for decades, though you probably don’t know her name. Her whole thing is creating deeply drawn character studies through snappy dialogue, which gives her the chops needed to do this for not one, or even two, but three romances. One of them is platonic, but it’s life changing love nonetheless. For a movie that covers multiple story lines it hangs together well, never bogging down, making the stories bind together and digging more deeply into the characters’ troubles than most movies manage with just one couple. It’s about the rehabilitation of wounded psyches and not simply getting two cute people together romantically. And it’s really funny. There are a couple of excruciatingly cute children, as well.
Music is important throughout, from the score to scenes of exuberant if not talented dance to scenes that use the music to move the characters’ stories forward. This is rarely done so well. Off the top of my head I’m thinking The Martian and Guardians of the Galaxy are two excellent examples. During one, Dustin Hoffman had me LOL in a very quick cameo.
I don’t consider myself especially romantic, unfortunately for my partner, but I was hoping to enjoy my foray into digital romance. The Holiday is the only one out of the half dozen films I sampled that I can say without a doubt I enjoyed quite a bit and will watch again and possibly again. It’s funny, it’s got a slew of great actors and music cleverly used. I did think that the director of photography should have taken some clues from the show Escape to the Country on how to make the exceptional English countryside really stand out, but they didn’t ask me. If you’re a rom com fan, or someone new to the genre, I definitely recommend this movie.