CChristmas – the most beautiful time of the year – has given mankind some truly terrible things over the past 2,022 years. Bitter boiled sprouts. Brexit dispute at the dinner table. Mrs. Brown’s boys special offers. But very few reach the depths of the holiday season’s most frightening low point: the sights and sounds of Cameron Diaz in the 2006 romantic comedy The holidays belt out a drunk version of “Mr Brightside” by The Killers.
This is usually the exclusive domain of beer dads and is usually an expression of having no discernible taste in music. In The holidays, it’s an expression of a sister doing it for herself in a man-free zone — until Jude Law shows up at the door with a wounded, single, sobbing tale to tell. It is at this point that Diaz’s scorned sister realizes that she needs a man after all.
Yes gladly The holidaysan endless Christmassy binge (every two hours and 16 minutes of it) in which two heartbroken women – Amanda, producer of the Diaz movie trailer, and Kate Winslet’s doe-eyed Daily Telegraph Journalist Iris – swapping homes for Christmas. (“Are there men in your town?” “Nil.” “When can I come?”). Inevitably, they find love on opposite sides of the pond: Amanda with the pseudo-complicated Graham, played by Law, in the British countryside; and Iris with the unnervingly innocent film composer Miles, played by Jack Black, in glitzy LA. “I like cheesy,” says Iris. Which is a good thing.
The holidays has somehow become a perennial favorite on Christmas time TV (tune on ITV4 this very second, The holidays is almost certainly activated). Of course, stinkers like that Santa Claus: The Movie and Jingle all the wayThen what The holidays is more than just a dollop of festive foam. The holidays, the kind of sentimental goo that could curdle eggnog, legitimized the Hallmark movie or cheap, nauseous affairs with TV vibes. Indeed, the film’s puzzling popularity — $205.8 million at the box office and a seasonal ubiquity behind just Santa, Wham! and Christ Himself – all but killed the quality Christmas movie. In connection to The holidays, the genre was dominated by a slew of tragic comedies – all packed with quirky kawinkidinks and cutesy misunderstandings. Most of these are currently clogging your algorithms on Netflix and appear to be playing Vanessa Hudgens.
I would know The holidays was trouble before I saw it. At Christmas 2006 I made a bit of a stereotypically gendered cinema visit: I went to see Casino royale on one of the multiplex screens; My partner and aunt went to see The holidays on top of each other. When I met in the foyer afterwards, my partner gave me a full report. As I was captivated by the final minutes of Daniel Craig’s hard-hitting Bond reinvention – almost to the second Craig finally said, “The name is Bond. James Bond” – meanwhile my aunt got up The holidaysCredits and loudly proclaimed, “That was the best movie I’ve seen in ages!” Dear old aunt — not exactly known for her critical eye — was a harbinger of the waffle The holidays would visit me every Christmas like an unwelcome Santa, coming not down the chimney but via the ITV schedules.
Written, directed and produced by Nancy Meyers (of Something must give and father of the bride Fame), The holidays is like a movie that grew up on an ailing diet love actually and The Diary of Bridget Jones. The result is a belching of plump women who fall for awkward poshos; stomach-churning earnest men; and a fairytale cottage in Surrey where men like Jude Law appear as if by magic to seduce troubled women.
Amanda is an agonizingly high-maintenance wine watch stereotype. “I want to eat carbs without wanting to kill myself,” she says, terrified of getting older. Too chilled to be truly loved, she hasn’t cried since she was 15. Fear not: 45 Minutes with Jude Law will soon have you crying like a real woman. Iris, trying to leave Rufus Sewell’s filthy adulterer Jasper behind, is a bubbling mess – she pines for men and breaks down at the mere mention of the word “single”.
The men in The holidays are no better. Law’s character is a dreamy widower, although the healthy banter with his daughters is likely to sicken any real parent on the spot. Spitting out self-analyzing psycho-babble, he admits to having “the classic male problem of not sticking it out” — that is, not calling back the women he’s slept with — like Joey from friends but with a clear conscience. He is also prone to lines that are distressed Jerry Maguire-similar condition. “I finally know what I want, and it’s a miracle,” he tells Amanda. “And what I want is you.” (The serious single dad love interest is a staple of modern festive romcoms, usually with a daughter wise beyond her years doing some dating on his behalf.)
Black’s character, meanwhile, is too saccharine for his own good. There’s not a man who wouldn’t recognize lines like “I’m just a one-woman-at-a-time kinda guy” as just that: a line. The only decent guy here is Arthur, played by Eli Wallach, an old screenwriter Iris befriends in Los Angeles. Arthur’s job is to look back on the Golden Age of Hollywood and explain the tropes of romantic comedy. As a matter of fact, The holidays tries to have his Christmas pudding and eat it too to convince himself that he is self-aware. Watch as Amanda envisions her love life in Hollywood-style movie trailers, or as Miles sings the score The graduate while Dustin Hoffman — in a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo — suddenly appears nearby.
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A movie considered a classic Hollywood fairy tale, The Irony, as evidenced by its endless ramblings about old scripts and scores, has fueled a worsening trend in Christmas movies. In the eternal mission of pumping out simple content, Netflix released a torrent of gimmicks, vacation-light romances: The princess counter films; The Knight Before Christmas; Christmas heritage; A Christmas Prince; vacation; and A Castle for Christmas – all knowingly awful, all semi-mockingly watched (but watched anyway), and usually with a fading star name, plus a supporting cast of actors who tragically can’t act.
These are Hallmark films by another name – in fact, many of them are produced by the Motion Picture Corporation of America, which also produces for the Hallmark Channel. The holidays made this type of film legitimately. The latest offender is Netflix In love with Christmas, in which Lindsay Lohan’s spoiled heiress falls off a mountain, develops amnesia, and falls in love with a cheesy single father. You can also lump Paul Feig’s absolutely bizarre, but at least entertaining, film together last christmas in that category a film about heart transplants, ghosts, immigration sentiment and, um, George Michael’s hits.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for the trashy Christmas movie. As a kid, I loved waking up on school holidays to this TV movie about Fred Savage befriending a tramp. For any decent effort at a Christmas movie now – a rarity, frankly, like the Kurt Russell Santa Caper The Christmas Chronicles – we get three (yes, three) princess switchit. Being bad has gone mainstream. i blame The holidays.
The worst thing, of course, is that I watch them all. Yearly. Because what is Christmas if not an exercise in enduring the worst of the most beautiful times of the year, all in the name of tradition?