Lovesick Leave

“Um, Jude ... my eyes are up here.”

The Holiday
Dir. and writ. Nancy Meyers; feat. Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Rufus Sewell, Edward Burns (PG-13)
If you (A) can name the last three teams to win the Super Bowl or (B) have built something out of wood in the last 12 months, there’s a good chance you have seen previews for The Holiday, groaned loudly, and, when you saw your girlfriend’s reaction to that groan, realized, “Sonuvabitch, I’m going to have to sit through this, too. Just like I had to sit through that God-awful How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and every other Kate Hudson movie.” Good news, bro: The latest from director Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give, What Women Want) is that rare romantic comedy that actually-kind-of-maybe has cross-gender appeal. They usually only come along once a year, so take a deep breath and suck it up.

When London journalist Iris’s (Kate Winslet) perfect man, a man she’s been pining away for for three years, announces his engagement to another woman right in front of her, she decides to swap houses with recently single Hollywood movie-trailer editor Amanda (Cameron Diaz … almost as bad as Hudson). Apparently, house swapping is a fairly normal vacation (or “holiday”) thing for some people to do. In this case, Amanda gets Iris’s postcardesque, snow-dusted cottage, and Iris gets Amanda’s sprawling Beverly Hills mansion. The goal: to mend their male-instigated heartache. The reality: They meet their perfect men within hours of arriving in each other’s countries because … well, as strong and independent as these women are, they still need a man to show them how to be strong and independent.

Wait, that’s wrong. Or at least, it can’t be right. This is all about female empowerment.

Anyway, Iris quickly meets chubby charmer Miles (Jack Black) and Amanda literally jumps into the sack with Iris’s brother Graham (Jude Law) within — no joke — five minutes of meeting him. These two quickly show Iris and Amanda that all their preconceived notions about men are wrong, and, even as the men struggle through their own issues, the women figure out how to take charge of their own lives and love on their own terms.

This is the story in broad strokes. Finer strokes reveal observations (through Amanda) about the obstacles successful women face in the dating world: Can a wealthy workaholic really be happy with the simple family life that women are supposed to want, and should that be more appealing than her personally valuable work? Iris just wants to figure out how to reclaim her life after surrendering so much of it to a man — something most people, male and female, can appreciate.

The casting of Law against type (read: not as the disease-ridden whore we all think he probably is), and Black as a romantic lead opposite a heavyweight like Winslet, is inspired. With this act alone, Meyers elevates her film above the rest of the romantic-comedy schlock that makes the genre so easy to ridicule. She’s crafted a funny, sincere movie that, sure, is clunkier than an old car for the first 30 minutes, but will leave you smiling for the rest. And probably a while afterwards, too.

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