Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Holiday Luva Luva

What happens when you put two British thespians and two Hollywood commercial actors (I believe this is the politically correct term for American jologs artistas) together in one movie? You’d get a romantic comedy you’d hate to hate.

“The Holiday” stars Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Cameron Diaz and Jack Black, an ensemble we don’t get to see everyday. Both serious actors, Kate and Jude, loosen up with Cameron and Jack who almost too often portray silly roles you’d think they really were silly. Each of the characters the cast play is entangled with his/her own so-called heart problems, thus “Holiday” becomes the perfect pre-Valentine’s day movie despite its snowy Christmas mood.

We are first introduced to Kate’s character, Iris, a journalist, who, as she herself has said, is a victim of unrequited love. She receives the final blow when her editor-in-chief (I think) assigns her to cover the wedding of her two colleagues: the man who is the object of her misery and the woman to whom her man left her for who happens to be the object of her further misery.

Iris keeps herself together and breaks down upon reaching her sanctuary—her home. She almost asphyxiates herself with liquid petroleum gas fumes (I tell you, this scene is hilariously pathetic!) in what she calls her “low point.” Good for her for snapping out of her desperate move, otherwise our story will have ended there.

Six hundred thousand miles away, we meet Cameron’s character, Amanda, a movie trailer editor based in Los Angeles California. She, too, has problems with the love department as she had just thrown her boyfriend out of her luxurious crib.

If Iris is drowning in sorrow inside her idyllic suburban English home, Amanda’s tear ducts seem to be in utter drought. She cannot shed a single tear. And even she acknowledges that her inability to cry is, in itself, trouble.

It is clever and funny the way Amanda thinks. Since movie trailers are her life, her stream of thoughts come like movie trailers do—upbeat, concise and exaggerated. I just wish they developed this good idea further.

Amanda decides to head to some place far from, I guess, LA and turns to the internet to find the perfect getaway. She sees a photo of Iris’ cottage in one of those home exchange sites. She contacts the British stranger, Iris, who is just as determined as her to flee her home if only to forget.

Incidentally, Iris is in front of her Sony Vaio looking like a total teary mess. She and Amanda trade messages and seal their house swap after Amanda asks her if there are any men in her town to which she answers, "zero." And so the deal goes, they live in each other’s home for the holiday.

Amanda tries hard to cozy up inside Iris’ cramped and old-fashioned abode while Iris’ jaw almost dropped because of Amanda’s fully-furnished-with-high-end gadgets home. Amanda gets drunk; Iris sleeps.

Then enter the men.

Along Amanda’s trip from sobriety to drunkenness, she hears a banging on the door and who does she see? Iris’ gorgeous older brother, Jude (I’m sorry I failed to get his character’s name), a book editor who, at that moment, is equally drunk. They engage in some chit-chat then sleep together, more than once in the movie, really.

On the other hand, Iris meets her guy, too. Actually, her “guys” because they were two: the old man who lives next door and Jack Black’s character, Miles, who works with Amanda as a musical score director. Both men keep Iris busy, the former by unconsciously tapping on her naturally good self and the latter by what I’d call an almost direct association (they face the same predicament in their respective love lives).

Iris encourages the old man to get out of his self-encaged shell by celebrating with his young fans a special night in his honor. She also inspires Miles to end his relationship with his part-time girlfriend. We’d think that these activities will keep Iris busy from her supposed sabbatical. Well she was busy but her pseudo man HAD to appear on her doorstep.

Pseudo man needs Iris…(oh how I would love to end my sentence here but I have to complete THE COMPLETE thought)…to edit his book. Crap! Since when is it romantic to edit someone else’ work? I mean, man, if you’re trying to impress or win your woman, don’t show her your incompetence—that includes your grammar glitches.

Iris, although love struck, sees through pseudo man’s murky intentions. She gets to her senses and drives him out of her house—I mean Amanda’s house— and her life—Iris’ life.

Meanwhile, Amanda pulls herself in and out of her “relationship” with Jude—“in” when it comes to getting in bed and “out” when it comes to committing. How American!

Sporting one of her “in” moods, she makes a surprise visit to Jude’s home. It would have been so predictable if she catches him with another woman—not because it’s Jude Law but because that’s the way stories like this one go. She rather catches him with two girls, his two cute girls. And no, he is not D-I-V-O-R-C-E-D. He is a W-I-D-O-W-E-R and the way he kept his kids unknown to Amanda is his way of “compartmentalizing” his life. You see, even if he is a dad and a mom to his daughters, he wants to keep his bachelor life healthy. Hmm…it might explain why, as he said, he kisses strangers all the time.

To keep everything light, all the characters get what they need in the end: Iris, a man who reciprocates the love she gives; Miles, a woman whom he deserves; Amanda, her tears; and Jude a potential mummy for his girls. We know all is well because we see them dancing in front of the fireplace, laughing and hugging. Plus they were in England! It couldn’t get any better than that.

Yes it is a fairytale ending but, heck, it’s a romantic comedy! The audience enters the theater expecting to come out with a satisfied smile on their faces. And with “The Holiday,” that’s what they’ll get.

Is the movie satisfying? Considering the eye candies you get too see for roughly two hours, yes. And there’s a cameo appearance by an LA dweller, “The Graduate’s” Dustin Hoffman.

The producers know how to maximize their characters. It helps that all the characters are people of the arts. It’s easier to appreciate artsy people in the romantic light, don’t you just agree? I mean, things would have been different of we were presented with a doctor, a scientist, an engineer and a computer programmer. The plot would have been more precise and accurate—no guessing, all calculated; ergo, no fun.

The movie attempted to touch on various types of love, or at least relationships but I think it failed in that aspect. As far as I saw, there was Iris and Miles, and Amanda and Jude. The complicated, if not problematic ties were shelved. You cannot really start a movie presenting a wide array of “loves” then settle with two. Multi-“loves” was something which “Love Actually” pulled off really well.

Perhaps asking more “loves” from the movie would be too much. After all, compressing two love stories for two equally powerful couples was a bit too much for one romantic comedy.

But don’t let that remark stop you. Go see this movie. Enjoy the mush. It’s the love month for crying out loud!

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