Theatrical Review: Nancy Meyers
officially displaces Sleepless in Seattle director Nora Ephron as the crown-wearing queen of winsome, middle-concept romantic comedies
Granted, the writer-director has been staffing a cache of headstrong and heartfelt female characters since she penned Private Benjamin in 1980. But it's the back-to-back-to-back musings of What Women Want, Something's Gotta Give, and her current affair The Holiday that elevate her to the summit of palatable sap. Article continues below
Meyers' screenplays light gentle fires under our hearts. As a director, she shoots very bright and extremely clean -- shadows have no place in her optimistic imagination. At her peak, Meyers brought a tender sense of parental pride to the 1991 Father of the Bride remake with Steve Martin
and Diane Keaton
. And when Meyers feels compelled to pour Hallmark-worthy cheese over her storybook fantasies, she understands when to pull back before our gag reflexes are triggered.
The only thing Meyers doesn't know how to do is shorten her pleasant excursions. Women beat its one joke (a man can read ladies' thoughts) for an eternity, and my patience eventually gave with Give. The same problem plagues Holiday, which largely entertains, but has no business being two hours and 15 minutes long.
A grass-is-always-greener concept finds workaholic women Amanda (Cameron Diaz
) and Iris (Kate Winslet
) trading abodes for two weeks. Standoffish So-Cal princess Amanda flees to a quiet cottage outside London, while insecure wallflower Iris hopes the warm California sun can melt away thoughts of her possessive ex-boyfriend (Rufus Sewell
). The former enters a whirlwind romance with Irisí ridiculously charming older brother, Graham (Jude Law
). The latter goes Hollywood by striking up friendships with two film-industry professionals -- veteran screenwriter Arthur Abbott (a wise Eli Wallach
) and endearing musician Miles (Jack Black
Meyers targets (and connects with) easy jokes that all age ranges can find humor in. She shoots scenic locations we dream of visiting, from England's rustic countryside to Los Angeles' palatial gated communities. Her characters hold dream jobs (Graham is a wealthy book editor, Miles composes film scores), and have problems that can be fixed in the allotted time frame.
The charming male suitors make out better than the ladies they pursue though Holiday. A relaxed Law is at his most debonair, letting the humor in each situation come to him. This is the best I've seen him in some time. Black, meanwhile, keeps his boisterous frat-boy personality in check to find the vulnerable and appreciative side of his character. As for Diaz and Winslet, they recycle emotional riffs each has played before in rival comedies.
Right around the time you start to feel Holiday's length, though, Meyers pulls back the curtain on a soft surprise and the charming endeavor reapplies its spell. Holiday is a pleasant diversion, a comedy that's as adorable as it is comfortably predictable.