Trust me to look deep into a typical chick flick dealing with love and romance, and actually buying into it. The Holiday, starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black, carries itself through via the solid performance of its cast, predominantly eye-candy, save one charismatic Jack in a non-comedic, dramatic role.
Being character and issue driven, The Holiday has its characters all suffering from and being out of favour with Love, and from there, begin the story of their struggle and development. Stories of unrequited love, being taken for a ride, doubts about long distance relationships, commitment, and of course, trust. You'll probably feel for the four primary characters, because if you're someone who have even been in a relationship, then you're more than likely to identify with them, at one point or another as they move along the story, dealing with different aspects of love, but ultimately, being afraid of being hurt by Love.
I thought Cameron Diaz was back at her ditzy best, being someone unable to feel and connect emotionally, and being cheated upon by her boyfriend played by Edward Burns. Kate Winslet was very believable as someone suffering from unrequited love, and looked ultra vulnerable, pining for her supposed beau portrayed by Rufus Sewell (last seen in Tristan and Isolde). Jude Law doesn't do much except to turn on those charms when needed, while Jack Black was at his element when in the video store, with his character romancing Shannyn Sossamon, who more than faded away after her stint in A Knight's Tale opposite Heath Ledger.
Much of the movie managed to unravel itself with quite a number of little surprises, as the trailer did not give away too much besides the fact that two out-of-love girls perform a home exchange during the holiday season, and found more than they bargained for with new opportunities in love. These little surprise elements are like presents being unwrapped during Christmas - you guess what's coming, get strong hints, and finally, while suspecting what the gift is, you'll still be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Be they plot devices, elements or even characters, there are plenty of moments to warm your heart. I guess "cute" never ran out of fashion, not in this genre.
What works is the pacing and editing. Running at 2 hours and 15 minutes, it will be rare if you find any moment a bit of a bore. While at the veneer there are tons of issues and problems about romance itself, and the trials and ghosts that each character had to exorcise, beneath the exterior are feel good, hopeful messages, those that you'd more or less expect a close friend to dispense, never mind if they sound cliche or obvious.
Date movie, Christmas movie, romance and feel good drama all rolled into one, The Holiday is very much a been there done that trip down memory lane for those experienced, while at the same time giving plenty of hope to those who haven't or are holding out for that special someone. But only if you buy into its message. Feel the love, people, and peace and goodwill toward all men.