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By Joel Kalkopf
3rd December 2021

Nobody cares if you think 'Die Hard' is a Christmas movie or not. I'm annoyed that I even had to mention it in this article, as I feel it taints the true meaning of Christmas.

But what is the true meaning of Christmas? I have no idea because I'm Jewish, but I can venture a few guesses from my - according to some people, "confused" - upbringing, and being obsessed with Christmas movies. 'Miracle on 34th Street', 'It's a Wonderful Life', 'The Muppets Christmas Carol', all absolute classics that are replayed every year for so many families. Of course, this has a lot to do with the setting and themes of the films, but more importantly, these viewing parties become a tradition for so many, because they all contain a few imperative and irreplaceable ideas - that this truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Which leads me that one gem that rarely gets discussed as being part of the pantheon of Christmas movies, Nancy Meyers' ('The Intern'), 'The Holiday'.

Iris (Kate Winslet, 'Titanic') is a journalist obsessed and madly in love with a man who's just got engaged. Amanda (Cameron Diaz, 'Charlie's Angels') is a film trailer producer who's just caught her man cheating. Christmas is fast approaching, and these women need to get out and learn to live again. Without even knowing each other, they decide to swap homes for the holidays (did Meyers invent Airbnb?!), and their lives will change in unexpected ways when they both fall for men on opposite sides of the world - Graham (Jude Law, 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows') and Miles (Jack Black, 'School of Rock').


I wish to take this opportunity to declare that Jack Black is just fantastic in this film, and deserves to be cast in more romantic comedies.

This film hits every mark one would expect from a Christmas movie, and it does so with such earnestness and heart that you can't help but fall in love with it - even after all these years. Meyers is well known for finding those warm, fuzzy feelings you get in a film, so with a stellar cast at her disposal, the composing of Hans Zimmer, and a script constructed by Jesus' angels themselves, what you have is a perfect Christmas movie.

So what makes a "perfect" Christmas movie? Well, crucially, it has to tick off a few key criteria. When does it take place? Is the holiday season relevant to the story? How many sleigh bells can be heard on the soundtrack? Did the characters learn a valuable lesson? Is there a scrooge? And finally, did the audience rediscover the true meaning of Christmas?

Obviously, the first point is easy, because yes, 'The Holiday' - surprise, surprise - takes place on Christmas. And yes, that setting is integral to the plot and holds relevance throughout the film.

Do we hear sleigh bells? More than that, you'll find that music is ostensively playing throughout the film, which really makes this more of a Christmas musical. Black's character Miles is a composer himself, so he's used as a direct tool to ensure the music is played fairly regularly. In other settings that might be too on the nose, but that's nigh on impossible for a Christmas movie. Miles is obsessed with music, and just like how he continuously mansplains music to Iris, so too does Meyers essentially spoon-feed the audience with exactly what emotions we should be feeling with over-the-top music cues, and a soundtrack to match.

This film hits every mark one would expect from a Christmas movie, and it does so with such earnestness and heart, that you can't help but fall in love with it - even after all these years

What about the characters and the valuable life lessons they learn on the way? Oh boy, do they. With Iris and Amanda switching houses, they are forced to face the worst reflections of themselves, battling to overcome their personal demons to come out clean the other side. Both of these women find their best selves on the journey, Iris through her neighbour Arthur (Eli Wallach, 1960's 'The Magnificent Seven') and Miles, and Amanda through Graham. They learn how to love, but more importantly, they learn to love themselves. Nawww.

This, of course, is no thanks to the scrooges, those who don't deserve our protagonists' love - Jasper, Maggie and Ethan. These good-for-nothing partners can celebrate Christmas alone for all we care. They didn't realise what they had in front of them, and they were never the right partners, simply for not letting their significant others shine.

And maybe that's the true meaning of Christmas? How can one celebrate and rain gifts on loved ones, if when they look in the mirror they don't like what they see? There is something in everyone to love, and there is love in everybody that deserves to be found and shine bright. Everyone has the ability and gumption to discover that about themselves, and it's up to us as people to help find and exude it.

I can wholeheartedly say that 'The Holiday' is all of this, and possibly more. This film is, of course, a love letter to Christmas, but it's also feeding off an adoration of film, music, love and companionship. It is a film I will never skip on when channel surfing, and one I always look out for at this time of year.

Sure, there are better Christmas movies. Winslet, Diaz, Law and Black have all been better in other films, and Zimmer will hardly be remembered for this alone. But despite the imperfections and datedness, 'The Holiday' stands the test of time by being a perfect concoction of Christmas magic, and therefore, a perfect Christmas movie.

RELEASE DATE: 29/11/2006
RUN TIME: 02h 16m
CAST: Kate Winslet
Cameron Diaz
Jude Law
Jack Black
Eli Wallach
Edward Burns
Rufus Sewell
Miffy Englefield
Emma Pritchard
Sarah Parish
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