WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Iris (Kate Winslet) is the society reporter at the Daily Telegraph – spending her life writing about everyone else’s happiness, while she wallows in her unrequited love for a former beau Jasper (Rufus Sewell), who’s about to get married – her next big assignment. After the paper’s Christmas party, she retreats to the loneliness of her chocolate box cottage in rural Surrey.
Cut to Los Angeles, where movie-trailer-maker Amanda (Cameron Diaz) has just dumped her philandering boyfriend Ethan (Edward Burns) and needs to get away from it all. What to do? It’s straight to Google. Type in “holiday” and press return.
So – what comes up?
A house-swap website, featuring a lovely, chocolate box cottage in rural Surrey. Thanks to instant messenger, the following day, the two women are flying in opposite directions across the Atlantic to spend Christmas away from the world that makes them miserable – and more specifically away from men – or at least that is the plan.
In practice, Iris strikes up a friendship with an ageing Hollywood screenwriter (Eli Wallach) and Ethan’s best friend Miles (Jack Black), while back in blighty, Amanda stumbles across Iris’s all too charming brother Graham (Jude Law).
It won’t come as a great surprise to hear that for both women, the holiday season proves to provide the escape they needed – but not in the way either expected.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
The film is, of course, completely unbelievable on so many levels – from the fact that this mild mannered newspaper journalist should commute to work every day from a remote cottage that would look less out of place in a fairytale, to the fact that a woman who happily boasts that she never takes a holiday would advertise her home on a house-swapping website in the first place – and that’s just for starters.
But once you’ve suspended your disbelief, there’s much warmth and charm to be gained from this film – and while some of the humour – not least Diaz’s attempts at slapstick – which seem uncomfortable at best, Jack Black underplays his role perfectly, to be both the warmest and funniest person in the film – well, the second funniest, but I won’t spoil the surprise of a somewhat unexpected cameo.
Jude Law’s storyline is ever so formulaic – but it’ll tick all the boxes desired by those after a regular rom-com fix.
Ultimately, it’s as charming as it is harmless – a pleasing enough waste of two hours that doesn’t even pretend to try to challenge you mentally.
There’s a line delivered by Kate Winslet that seems to me to sum up the film as a whole. Offered a corsage at the beginning of an evening out, she’s told that she doesn’t have to wear it if she thinks it’s corny. “Sometimes you need a bit of corny in your life.”