Stephanie Sottile’s 31 Days Of Christmas – Day 1: The Holiday
Happy December, all!
You and I are about to embark on a month-long journey to watch a Christmas/holiday themed movie every day during the month of December! It’s doable, trust me. Just me, some eggnog, and my dog (shockingly- not the title of one of the films this month). I had done this in previous years, but I was alone! Now I can subject YOU to awful holiday movies with religious overtones or perhaps open your eyes to a Christmas miracle of a film that you can start to make part of your own holiday tradition. I hope to bring you some reviews…mostly some rantings…from each day which will feature a different movie. Some of them you may have heard of, while some you wish were left to rot in the North Pole.
Oh, and keep in mind these are going to be SUPER spoiler-y…just a fair warning.
December 1st– The Holiday
Now I will first state that as a girl, I am somewhat embarrassed my first choice is a…sigh…romantic comedy. On the whole, I avoid the genre like fruitcake (“Seriously, Steph, enough with the references, we know Christmas is coming”), but I will say I love Kate Winslet so this film does get a pass, at least with me. For those who aren’t familiar with The Holiday, it stars Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, and…Jack Black? Yeah, I was thrown by that choice, too. *begins to sing “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other” *
Kate Winslet is a mousy, sweet woman named Iris who has a vague job at a newspaper and is in love with a columnist there whom she quickly finds out is engaged. Now the movie might start to turn you off right away as it starts with the, sometimes dreaded, voice-over narration. Now, usually, unless it’s Bridget Jones’ Diary or Goodfellas, this device falls flat as it is sometimes seen as lazy- just there to give the viewer information that can’t be weaved into the story naturally. And what usually bothers me is who is she supposed to be talking to? It’s not written like a diary entry or a story told in the past…or is it that she’s dead and telling the other ghosts/angels a story from many moons ago and we’re all watching her story unfold ala Defending Your Life and we live in reality that exists on a never-ending film reel that’s displaying our darkest, most embarrassing tales…you know what? Let’s just say yeah, that’s it, and move on.
We then meet Cameron Diaz who plays Amanda, a type-A woman who claims she can’t cry and works as a movie trailer editor and lives in a mansion. If there are any trailer editors reading this…please confirm your income because I can’t imagine it’s “Los-Angeles-mansion-rich” (maybe a nice condo, but c’mon). Well, in her Robin Leach-worthy home, she kicks out her cheating boyfriend in a whirlwind of goofy anger that can’t really be taken seriously and decides she needs a vacation and finds Iris’ house on a vacation home rental website where you can “Freaky Friday” your entire lives (safety and common sense and car insurance be damned!). If these websites do exist, and you live in the Caribbean, my house is up for grabs! It’ll be great! Everything Jersey City has to offer will be at your disposal! Old churches! That one bodega! This liquor store where cute dogs roam around freely and…uh…that other bodega! All the hot vacation spots! Just let me come stay in your warm climate and beautiful beaches! A win-win for both of us.
I do appreciate how clearly the film sets everything up without too much filler; they clearly establish both characters, their own conflicts, and how the inciting incident to drive the main plot—pretty much absolutely necessary for any piece of clear writing (this review notwithstanding). And I do appreciate the follow-through on the device of narrating Amanda’s stressed thoughts as a cheesy movie trailer. Although, I will scold Iris for leaving her dog home in England; if some stranger walked into my house with my chow chow dog here, they’d have no kneecaps left. And then how would they enjoy the bodegas?!
As expected, we then meet the two male stars in the film. Miles (Jack Black), is a friend of Amanda’s nameless cheating boyfriend from earlier who needs to pick up something work-related. He arrives with his girlfriend and after some fumbling with the gate (yes, this mansion has a GATE and an INTERCOM), Iris meets him. A quick switch over to the quaint English cottage will show us Jude Law as Iris’ brother, Graham, who is drunk and needs her sister’s bathroom. He finds Amanda, they kiss, they screw, and seemingly fall in love in about 3 minutes. And cue my internal screaming at rom-coms…because you know us ladies, right?! I don’t know about you, but every time I travel to a foreign country to live in a stranger’s house and some drunk guy comes to my door at 1 am, as long as he’s ruggedly handsome, I will sleep with him and then make him coffee in the morning. “What’s your name, handsome stranger? Ted? Come right in! Is that short for Theodore?”
And here come the montages! Iris meets the next door neighbor, this elderly famed screenwriter, Arthur, whom she befriends quickly and has a Hanukkah party with while Amanda discovers Graham is a widowed father of two daughters. [We also learn she OWNS the movie trailer editing company so that explains the house! Thank you, logic!] Cue the hackneyed exclamatory statements in the Amanda/Graham portion of the film (“Oh my God, this is so complicated- you, a father of two and me, a movie trailer editor from the States who’s dad left when she was 15! We have such complex backstories and yet…we can’t turn away!”). So, I will say that Iris’ story is a bit more rich and realistic even if due to the Arthur element- there’s no laser-like focus on the love story, but on Iris meeting a new friend who might actually give her a different kind of fulfillment because I don’t know if these rom-coms have heard…but we ain’t all about that dick sometimes. Sometimes our hearts need to be filled, as well as our vaginas. And we still continue to see this as Miles’ cheating girlfriend is revealed which causes Iris to admit her own heartbreak with Jasper and they both…become closer friends? Yeah, this actually didn’t lead to kiss/sex/coffee for once. Only mild flirting aside, they start to prepare for the writer’s guild celebration being thrown for Arthur.
And now we present….RANDOM THOUGHTS THAT DON’T BELONG IN THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE!
- “Why are they in a Blockbuster? This was from 2006? Is that accurate?! I thought they died out by then!”
- “How can Graham keep leaving his kids with their grandmother to go sleep with this American hussy?”
- “Can there be one movie where Jack Black doesn’t make goofy faces? I don’t ask for much in this life.”
- “Do none of these people have families!? I’ve never had my Christmases filled with random liaisons with hot strangers and parties with old people! Just trying to get my dad to stop yelling at certain groups of people moving in next door to him over Christmas ham.”
Oh, no…here comes the dark cloud. Miles’ girlfriends calls him apologizing like crazy and he runs to go find her; Jasper flies to Los Angeles on a plane of FLITHLY LIES, and Amanda is continuing to keep herself closed off from love. When will these kids ever learn!? But fear not! Iris’ lack of judgment is only but for a mere moment when she realizes that Jasper will not leave his fiancé and that he will always put Iris second before his own interests. She screams at him for treating her terribly and realizes she is a strong, independent woman that don’t need no man! She throws him out of her rented house in a whirlwind of power and feminism! She screams triumphantly as Susan B. Anthony high fives her from heaven! Mark Cuban flies down in a blimp to drop tampons to every woman on earth! ABIGAIL ADAMS RETURNS FROM THE DEAD AND KICKS MIKE PENCE IN THE BALLS! WHO RUN THE WORLD!? GIRLS?! WE RUN THE MOTHER FUCKING WORLD! *passes out*
Sorry. What happened? Oh, right- Arthur’s celebration is a success and Miles tells Iris he has left his girlfriend and wants to spend New Year’s Eve with her in England. Meanwhile, Amanda can finally cry and thus all her daddy issues from the last 20 years have been wiped clean and she will also be spending the new year with her new beau. The film ends with the celebration with all four of our stars and the two little girls…we are hoping their grandmother is alive and well.
FINAL WORDS: Should you see it this holiday? If only for Kate Winslet being amazing as she always is…yes. Her portion of the movie makes me hate this a little less than most romantic comedies. And I find her friendship with Arthur pretty charming.
Thanks for joining me on this journey this December, folks. I’ll try to keep the fireplace roaring for you.