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The Holiday: “20 thoughts I had while watching the romcom for the first time”

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Sarah Shaffi
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Jude Law and Cameron Diaz in The Holiday

Starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, and featuring plenty of cute snow-covered scenery, The Holiday is hailed as a classic of the Christmas romcom genre. But what would a first-time viewer make of the 2006 film? We sat Sarah Shaffi down in front of a TV to find out.

I love a romantic comedy. Made-for-TV, cinematic release, straight-to-DVD, I’ll take them all and complain about them and love them in equal measure. But until this year – nay, this month – I’ve been keeping a very big secret: I have never watched The Holiday

Numerous times, I’ve been told how wonderful this Kate Winslet/Cameron Diaz-starring film is, how charming and romantic, how impossibly sweet. Numerous times, I resisted the urge to watch it myself. But, when a Stylist writer penned a missive on how The Holiday captures her heart every Christmas, I decided it was about time to give in and patch over this gaping hole in my romcom knowledge.

It was… well, it was certainly an experience. Here are 20 thoughts that ran through my mind as I watched The Holiday

1. Two hours and 15 minutes?! Why on earth is this film so long? I could probably fit in an actual holiday of my own in that time.

2. Of course Jasper cheated on Iris. He’s played by Rufus Sewell and has Rufus Sewell ever played a character you couldn’t immediately describe as a cad? Answers on a postcard please.

3. Amanda doesn’t cry during her break-up, and that’s a bad thing. Essentially, this means that when a woman cries she is weak and emotional, and when a woman doesn’t cry she is… cold? Heartless? Broken in some way. We just can’t win.

The Holiday: Kate Winslet as Iris, opposite Eli Wallach as Arthur, in the Christmas rom-com.
The Holiday: Kate Winslet as Iris, opposite Eli Wallach as Arthur, in the Christmas rom-com.

4. Is the silent gardener pruning Amanda’s rose-bushes (not a euphemism) going to be the only person of colour we see during the film? Really?

5. Is that…? It is Baby John Krasinski living in Amanda’s basement! What a difference a beard, a haircut and a short passage of time can make.

6. It seems Amanda and Iris organised their home swap in a day. As in, less than 24 hours. Forget booking flights and annual leave from work, I’m more concerned that both women only need a few hours to ensure their house is in good enough shape to leave a stranger there, ALONE, for two weeks. This is the most unrealistic thing about this film.

7. It’s snowing in England. And that snow is so thin on the ground that it would melt if anyone walked on it, so I’m not sure how it’s holding out against that heavy chauffeured hire car.

8. Did Amanda really just drive home after downing a bottle of wine in a village shop? Really?

9. The timeline of this film is completely off, and it’s annoying me to the point where I am completely distracted. The break up, the travel and Amanda’s first day in Surrey have all taken place in the space of about 10 hours. Scratch what I said before, this is the most unrealistic thing about this film.

10. Iris is close enough to her brother that she lets him crash at her house after drunken nights out, without warning, and yet she can’t send him a text to let him know she’s going to America for two weeks at Christmas? I’m calling it: broken family.

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11. Hmm. Jude Law just put on a pair of glasses and wow. I am suddenly extremely interested in this movie.

12. Also, side note: no man in publishing looks like that. I should know: I’ve done the research.

13. I predict that (plot twist!) all of the girls that Graham is casually name-dropping definitely belong to his daughters. Which makes Iris a terrible aunt as well as sister, because she’s gone away for Christmas without telling her – I assume – beloved nieces. (One of those beloved nieces has just spoken about her time making the film, and where she thinks her character is now.)

14. Erm… why is Miles’ girlfriend not allowed to speak in this film? Has she said a word? I really don’t think she has.

15. Oh come the f**k on, Iris, Jasper is the absolute WORST. Tell him to shove his writing where the sun doesn’t shine!

16. The true romance at the centre of this film is between Arthur and Iris. They are adorable and I really hope he doesn’t die. 

17. Right. So Miles drove to Iris’ house, enjoyed a very boozy dinner and now he’s just… he’s just driving home in his car. Along with the standard passing of time, does drink driving not exist in this strange alternate world?

18. Yawn. When do we go back to Surrey and spend more time with Amanda and Graham?

19. On that note, I literally cannot buy into this relationship between Iris and Miles. They’re both sweet, I think, but we’ve barely seen them spend any time together and now he’s willing to fly thousands of miles to go on a date with her? Talk about a rebound.

20. Oh, thank goodness, we’ve reached the end. While this final scene is all very sweet and classic Christmas, I’m not sure it can last. For a start, Miles and Amanda’s jobs require them to be based in LA, while Iris and Graham can work from pretty much anywhere - job market and understanding bosses permitting. So I predict an en masse move to America, some sunshine, and a happy ending for Amanda and Graham (and a lasting friendship for Iris and Miles if they break up).

The Holiday’s decision to dispense with all the rules of how time really works made me feel like I was watching the film for approximately three days. But it has all the hallmarks of a good Christmas romcom: snow (fake-looking as it is), attractive actors, light angst, and a warm, wintry ending. It won’t make my list of top romcoms ever, but would I watch it again come next Christmas?

Of course I would.

Images: Rex Features

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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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