You can call me a romantic sap. Others have done so. When I see a romantic movie I enjoy, I tend to watch it repeatedly. This is true for films like Sweet Home Alabama (2002) or Legally Blonde (2001). It is not necessarily Reese Witherspoon. Those were simply the two that came most readily to mind, and that I own. There is something about them that speaks to me. I do not necessarily seek them out, either, which is why I had never seen The Holiday (2006). I am happy to report that this is no longer the case. I only wish I had seen it sooner.
Explaining The Holiday is not exactly straight forward, but well worth the effort. There are two main leading ladies the film focuses on: Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet) and Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz). Iris is a reporter for the Daily Telegraph in London, and for years she has loved Jasper Bloom (Rufus Sewell), a co-worker with which she has had a passing affair. Amanda is a successful film trailer producer in Hollywood, and she discovers that her current live-in boyfriend is cheating on her. For Iris, she is on hand to witness Jasper get engaged at an office Christmas party. Both women feel they need to get away from their problems. As it happens, Iris’ home is listed on a home exchange service, and it is her home that Amanda finds on the service’s website. Thus, Iris and Amanda swap homes. When Iris arrives in Los Angeles and is dropped off at Amanda’s home, she is immediately impressed by its size and luxury. As for Amanda, while she initially thinks the quaint English cottage is the perfect get-away, it turns out to be too much of an adjustment for her and resolves to leave. Such is her plan until Iris’ brother Graham Simpkins (Jude Law) shows up late on her first night, and they do, well, adult stuff. Despite at first believing it would be a one-time thing, Amanda decides to stay and they begin to get to know one another. Meanwhile, Iris settles into L.A. living by befriending one of her neighbors, an aged screen writer, Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach). She is drawn to his stories about old Hollywood, and wants to see him receive a lifetime achievement award that he seems to want to dismiss. She also strikes up a friendship with a local film scorer, Miles Dumont (Jack Black), who is dealing with his girlfriend not being faithful. Both of them must deal with their newfound love interests coming from different countries. For Amanda, this decision is made all the more difficult when she meets Graham’s children, thus revealing that he is not quite the paramour he plays. When Iris invites Miles to England for New Year’s, the decision is seemingly made for both, and all four ring in the new year together.
There is so much to admire about The Holiday, aside from the things that Amanda and Graham do in the bedroom. Luckily none of that is filmed. Pre-marital sex aside, before you go thinking too much more about this aspect, Graham is actually a widower, and the lifestyle he leads is a façade because he believes potential partners might be turned off by the fact that he has children. That does not sound good either, but at least he does not present a parade of women to his children. Thus when he lets a new lady meet his daughters, it is meaningful. Had Amanda’s and Graham’s relationship been based solely on the physical side of things, there would have been little substance for it to last. There is a beautiful mystery that God instilled into creation, and it pertains to men and women being able to take part in the creative process by bearing children. That is why the Church refers to marriage as a vocation, but as the Monsignor I confess to every week told me, we are all called at every stage of life to be generative, and through that to build up His Kingdom. Though not intending to say anything related to this matter, Amanda basically says it all when she comments on how sex complicates everything. What can be more “complicated” than raising up a family in His name, and wonderful?
The other cool aspect of The Holiday from a Catholic perspective is the care that Iris shows for Arthur. The dignity that the Church sees in all life is not just for the unborn, but also for the elderly. Iris not only provides companionship for Arthur, but she also helps him physically. One reason why Arthur is hesitant to attend the awards ceremony to honor him is because of his difficulty walking. Hence Iris takes it upon herself to rehabilitate him to the point where not only does not need his walker, but is able to make it up a short flight of stairs. It reminds me of short documentaries on YouTube I have seen recently about various religious communities. Not only do the care for the older members among them, but many of them also have a charism for providing lasting care for old people. This is a function that the Church has fulfilled for centuries.
It might go without saying, but I recommend The Holiday. Take the dalliance between Amanda and Graham with a grain of salt. Hollywood just does not seem to think abstinence is a virtue, unfortunately. But the rest is pretty great, particularly if you are a movie buff. One of my favorite scenes is when Iris and Miles are in a movie store (remember those) picking out a movie to rent. Miles is talking about how great the scores are in a variety of movies, and they land on The Graduate (1967). And, of course, the camera pans over and there is Dustin Hoffman. Classic. In all, it is funny, sweet, and self-deprecating. What more could you want?