I recently watched the 2006 film “The Holiday,” which stars Jude Law (Graham), Kate Winslet (Iris), Cameron Diaz (Amanda), and Jack Black (Miles). The film was well-made, decently written, and satisfactorily acted, but it is most notable for its strenuously post-modern perspective on adult relationship.
The movie draws you in through setting itself in beautiful scenery and incredible opulence. The movie seems to be a celebration of materialism. The two main female characters played by Winslet and Diaz swap homes–Amanda lives in a magnificent L. A. home and Iris in an enchanting English cottage–and proceed to revel in their respective surroundings. The film portrays Winslet as particularly satisfied with her new trappings, and we are invited to marvel as well. The film seems to speak double-mindedly here, because while none of the four wealthy main characters are ultimately happy, they don’t seem to realize that their homes and clothes are ultimately unsatisfying. In other words, they have failed to make the connection that they need beauty, truth, and goodness in their lives rather than Burberry, Timberland, and Gucci. Throughout the film, I felt uneasy watching them, as if I were eavesdropping on the lives of the mega-rich. Chick flicks have this feel, I think, because they are so internally focused; we see the lives of these two modern women to their very essence, and we come away feeling guilty because of the success of our voyeurism.
“The Holiday” throws Graham and Amanda immediately into bed. It’s thoroughly disgusting. They continue to have a sexual relationship over the course of Amanda’s two-week stay. As time goes on, they realize they love one another (or something like that), and so they decide to stay together in some form. We don’t actually know how they’re going to do this, as the movie ends with the two of them living hapily ever after but without any engagement or marriage. It’s really incredible, when you think of it. These two beautiful people come together, commence a sexual relationship, and then stay together in some amorphous form. This is the new paradigm. Who needs rings and ceremonies and lifelong commitments when you can just stare deeply into one another’s gorgeous blues and fornicate whenever you want? Certainly not the screenwriters of Hollywood.
Speaking of the screenwriters, they’re out–as they usually are–to get men in this movie. While this does grow tiring, I have to say that I do understand it, because many men today are inconsiderate, selfish, irresponsible idiots looking out only for their own carnal instincts. Where such men may enjoy free reign in society, they are regularly excoriated in the strange world of chick flicks, where ice cream never fattens, everyone drives a BMW, and heroines always win. The chick flick world really is a fantasy world. I’ve certainly never observed so many witty, literate tell-offs and guys getting punched and physically hurt as I have in chick flicks. But that’s fine. They are what they are, and they do make some useful points, and they are dead right on the state of modern men. Jude Law almost made me lose my recently digested chips-and-mango-salsa when he almost whispered how hard it was to be a widowed dad and have “hot chocolate spilled all over him” by his two darling little girls. The movie, incredibly enough, actually tried to have the audience sympathize with him and excuse his penchant for going out to bars whenever his children are out of town in order to get sloppily drunk and sleep with whoever he can grab before falling down. The emotional manipulation that occurs in chick flicks is astounding. Here’s a guy who actually has a shot of living honorably, of demonstrating male strength and virtue, and he whines to the camera about having hot chocolate spilled on him. It would be awful to be a widower, but what kind of man uses this state to justify lecherous, self-serving behavior that violates women both physically and emotionally? Well, apparently the kind of man that Hollywood and its devotees love. The amazing thing is that Jude Law’s character is so morally atrocious and yet the movie still succeeds in making you like him. This truly is manipulation at its worst.
Nowadays, chick flicks don’t even end with sappy scenes involving weddings and lots of hasty plot resolution. Everyone just falls in love (whatever that means), throws a party, and jumps into bed. We’re left as confused as Jude Law’s character’s little girls must be. They’ve lost their mother, their father beds other women on a regular basis, and now Amanda joins their world, but in an undefined way. The viewer of “The Holiday” who is not bewitched by its charms and its manipulative plot devices is not left smiling sweetly to himself over the fact that the Two Beautiful People–Law and Diaz–ended up together, but rather frowning concernedly for the fate and the hearts of those two little girls. They are not real girls, of course, but they represent real girls, countless little girls, who are growing up in a world bereft of manly virtue and feminine appeal, and who will likely grow up to be haunted and angry, unfulfilled and cheated, no matter how softly the closing credits may play.