Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Holiday from Cliches

Since my weekend was uncharacteristically full of wide-open leisure time, I decided to catch up on my Netflix queue. I watched a movie on Friday that looked good in the trailers, but turned out to be an awful piece of shit in full-length. I guess it's fitting that the trailers made the movie look good, since one of the main characters is a movie-trailer maker.

The Holiday made me groan, roll my eyes, and sigh in frustration throughout its two-hour-and-sixteen-minute runtime. Sometimes a movie annoys you but you're not really sure why. It has great stars and a good premise, and yet it just feels too forced, too manipulative, too movie-like. It's just trying too hard. That was the problem with The Holiday. It was one tired old movie cliche (yes, I recognize that that phrase itself has become cliche) after another.

I like reading reviews of movies after I've seen them, but I usually only bother with movies I really loved or really hated. And when I found reviews of The Holiday, I was delighted to see that many of the critics hated it as much as I did. And they brought up the same exact points that I made about the movie. Yay, validation!

Richard Roeper tears it a new one in a review that, unfortunately, I can't link to. For some reason the Sun-Times doesn't offer it for free online. So I found it on a library database, and here's some of his best lines:
This is a romantic comedy filled with moments we recognize from other, mostly better, romantic comedies.
He then lists several examples, and adds:
You get all that and more in "The Holiday." I guess you could say I've just spoiled some of the surprises in the film, but the surprises would be surprises only if this is, like, your fourth movie ever.
Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post writes a brilliantly funny review where she chronicles her thoughts as she watches the movie. This review alone was worth enduring the two-hour movie. Some of my favorites:
8:00 Did Kate Winslet's house in Surrey spring fully formed from the forehead of Thomas Kinkade?

8:15 Kate Winslet is so real. So winning. So utterly wrong for this movie.

8:30 Did Cameron Diaz's house spring fully formed from the forehead of J.W. Marriott?

8:55 I wonder if Kate will add this to her American Express commercial. ("At 31, I fired my agent for putting me in a piece of generic entertainment-industrial product with no redeeming artistic value.")

9:07 Jack Black is so funny. So winning. So utterly wrong for this movie.

9:30 For the love of all that's holy, please stop talking and end this movie.

In my schadenfreudic investigations, I discovered that the movie was written and directed by Nancy Meyers. Some consider her to be "Hollywood's queen of the chick flick." She's also responsible for Baby Boom, Father of the Bride, What Women Want and Something's Gotta Give. Roeper contends that Meyers likes to emasculate her leading men. I never thought that much about that, but I do know that the movies of hers I'm familiar with have annoyed me.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against chick flicks or romantic comedies. Love Actually and When Harry Met Sally are two of my all-time favorite movies.

When I gave The Holiday a bad rating on Netflix, it asked me if I wasn't interested in movies with strong female leads. That offends me, because I have no problem with strong female leads. What I have a problem with is bad Hollywood cliche.

As Wesley Morris said in another brilliant review, "Meyers can't sustain a convincing idea in her movies..." He starts his review with a summary of the scene in The Holiday where Cameron Diaz and Jude Law meet:


Who's there?

It's Jude.

Jude who?

Jude better sleep me with now. You've only got two weeks!

He adds, "That's cheesy, I know, but welcome to the universe of Nancy Meyers, where low-grade cheesiness is contagious."

Sometimes it can be really fun to hate bad art, so I will say this about Nancy Meyers: her horrible movie has provided me with much great entertainment as reviewer after reviewer has outdone themselves cleverly tearing it to pieces.

To use another Hollywood cliche, that alone was worth the price of admission.

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