If there is anything that goes together with Christmas more than presents and decorations, it's a classic Christmas vacation. Most people are off for several days at Christmas and so that makes it a perfect time to take a trip someplace else. Of course, it also is one of the most expensive times to head off on vacation because of that fact. For this reason, people have been looking for cheaper ways to vacation including using discount hotel sites, association discounts, and even home swapping where people save on accommodations by swapping their home with someone who is heading in the opposite direction. It is on this conceit that Nancy Meyers built a modern romance classic that just so happens to be set at Christmas. Christmas actually takes a bit of a back seat in this film, though it does provide the idea for the major inciting incident. But let's not miss the plane preparing for the discussion of this film, its time to take The Holiday.
Iris Simpkins is a society column editor for The Daily Telegraph in London who has unconditionally loved her friend Jasper for years and has never seemed to be able to get him to really care for her. Just before Iris's Christmas holiday, she discovers that she has been assigned the unwanted task of writing up Jasper's wedding announcement and sinks into a deep depression. At the same time, in Los Angeles, Amanda Woods, a trailer editor, discovers that her live in boyfriend has been cheating on her because he finds her cold and unavailable. She kicks him out and then makes a conscious decision to take her first vacation in years. She manages to send Iris a message about swapping out her home for Iris's at a particularly low point for Iris (who is about to commit suicide by breathing gas from the stove but then snaps out of it because its a stupid idea). They agree to trade homes and soon they are off on their own vacation adventures. Iris falls in love with Amanda's posh L.A. home and Amanda is slowly charmed by Iris's quaint country village (and her equally charming brother Graham). Each woman soon discovers the things that are missing from their lives and finds that they must each make a very important choice about how their lives will continue from this point on.
My synopsis for The Holiday really doesn't do it justice because it forces me to not reveal some very important plot points for those of you who haven't seen it and thus makes the film seem very thin. However a lot of things occur to these characters with in the simple plot that it certainly justifies its 2 hour plus runtime. You become invested in these two women and their journey of self-re-discovery (can I do two dashes in one word?) and that is what drives the film, so it is a very character centered story rather than a plot centered one. And each story has it's own wrinkles and eccentricities too. For example, Iris's tale feels like it is going to be a standard rom-com plot, but in fact it is more about helping an elderly screenwriter that she meets who lives down the street and he is the one who helps her realize she doesn't need Jasper. Amanda's story is even more difficult to sell because it is a romance story about a woman who doesn't really feel any emotion and who finds it difficult to begin (and she has her own trailer voiceover telling her so). It keeps the film lively and inspired, particularly for those who might have grown tired of standard rom-com cliches. It is a wonderful film for celebrating love and happiness, and what better time of year than Christmas to acknowledge those attributes of the human spirit?