Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Holiday

Year 8, Day 47 - 2/16/16 - Movie #2,248

BEFORE: At my new(er) job, I've been helping put together an e-book, an illustrated version of "Little Red Riding Hood", featuring drawings that my boss did years ago.  I had to learn the Kindle Creator software, place the text over the images, make sure all the spelling and grammar was correct, then get it posted in the Amazon Kindle store.  Now we're trying to publicize it, and that involved finding people on the web who review books, so that we can send them free copies or sample pages.  So I looked at a lot of blogs today, and what I pick up on from most of them is this feeling of self-importance, almost delusions of grandeur, because everyone wants to think that their opinions matter, and that the web is the great equalizer.  But who cares, really, about the average person's job, or what kind of a day they had, or what they had for lunch, and why does everyone seem to think that all this is post-able now?  I mean, that's not what Twitter and the internet are for, is it?  It's much more important that I get to blog about my job, and what kind of a day I had, and what movie I watched today.  Please note that I usually spare everyone from hearing about what I had for lunch.  

Here's the TCM "31 Days of Oscar" schedule for tomorrow, February 17:

Glenn Ford carries over from "The Gazebo" to:
"The Sheepman" with Willis Bouchey carrying over to:
"Million Dollar Mermaid" with Howard Freeman carrying over to:
"The Blue Dahlia" with Veronica Lake carrying over to:
"I Married a Witch" with Cecil Kellaway carrying over to:
"Frenchman's Creek" with Joan Fontaine carrying over to:
"A Damsel in Distress" with George Burns carrying over to:
"The Sunshine Boys" with Walter Matthau carrying over to:
"The Odd Couple" with Herb Edelman carrying over to:
"The Way We Were" with Barbra (not Barbara, TCM!) Streisand carrying over to:
"A Star Is Born" (1976) with Paul Mazursky carrying over to:
"Blackboard Jungle" with John Hoyt carrying over to:

Another day, another 4-movie chain that I've already seen - the two Matthaus and the two Streisands. So now I'm at 61 seen, 131 unseen, with 4 added to the list.  And in my February chain, both Cameron Diaz and Jack Black carry over from "Sex Tape".

THE PLOT:  Two women with guy problems swap homes in each other's countries, where they each meet a local guy and fall in love.

AFTER: Well, I put my faith in the actor linking, and it (usually) doesn't steer me wrong.  Without even realizing it, that helped me organize my February romance chain into two (nearly) distinct sections - the American-set films and the British-set films.  I had films like "The Pick-Up Artist", "Betsy's Wedding" and "Trainwreck" that were set in New York, "St. Elmo's Fire" was set in D.C., "One from the Heart" in Las Vegas, "Pretty in Pink" and "About Last Night" were in Chicago, and I think "He Said, She Said" was set in Baltimore.  But now I look at what's coming up in the second half of the month, and a lot of it is set in the U.K. - "Bridget Jones' Diary", 3 Jane Austen films, and the romances of Stephen Hawking and Charles Dickens.  I'll circle back to NYC at the end, though.  

Perfectly straddling the line between the American and UK-set films, is this one, half taking place in Los Angeles, and the other in a small British village.  It's based on the premise that two women who have never met before are having relationship problems at the same time, and through an internet "house exchange", they manage to relocate for two weeks, and both find the perfect man ON THE FIRST DAY in the new location, without even looking.  I've already established that England is a magical place, as seen in "Twice Upon a Yesterday", where the bartenders and trash collectors are so eager to help you, they'll even help turn back the clock so you can fix your life.  But no time travel here, after a few hours in Britain, the perfect mate just comes knocking on the door.  Now that's service.

But - Los Angeles?  I wasn't aware that this (ironically) cold, impersonal city offered up the same service.  To be fair, Iris, the woman from the U.K. only meets the perfect mate for herself on Day 1, it does take some time until he's available and fully interested in her.  Meanwhile her ex-boyfriend, who's engaged to someone else, keeps in contact with her for writing advice, and possibly more.  Damn, how's she going to forget that guy if he keeps phoning her?  

Now, a few problems with this story are evident right off the bat - first, it's too long, with a 2 hour, 18 minute running time.  I realize it has to tell TWO romance stories starting from the "meet-cutes", but that's still too long.  Edit it down, for chrissakes.  Just like in "Sex Tape", once the problem is established, and a solution is put forward, a screenwriter really should try and cut down on all the stalling in-between.  

There's a story in the middle about Iris meeting her neighbor, helping this old man find his house again after he goes out for a walk, and he turns out to be a Hollywood screenwriter from the Golden Age, with great stories to tell.  She does help him find his confidence again, and vice versa, eventually convincing him to accept an invitation to speak at the Writer's Guild.  I can see how someone might complain about this storyline - though it's a clear example of killing time, I will allow Iris to find her purpose, even if that purpose is helping other people remember theirs.  

But what's worse by far is the excruciating dialogue as these two women go through their periods of recovery and self-discovery, and manage to narrate their every move for the benefit of the audience.  (Again, again, it's "Show, don't tell.")  Instead of having a character say, "Well, I guess I'm packing my bags and flying to England!" why not just SHOW us that character packing her bags?  It's so much more efficient.  Later this leads to horrible exchanges like, "Hey, I just kissed you.  I don't know why I just kissed you, I'm really not the type of person who just kisses other people, but let's talk about the fact that I just kissed you, what do you think it means?"  Ugh, it's so painful, if I heard a woman talk like that, there'd be a me-shaped hole in the wall of the room.  

People simply do not talk like this in the real world - if they did, they'd probably be committed to an institution, shunned as an outcast, or simply spontaneously combust in a flaming ball of self-realization.

And I'm sorry, but what an enormously glaring NITPICK POINT - the two women agree to switch houses, and both book travel between L.A. and London for the next day?  And they both pay FULL FARE?  That's fine for the L.A. woman, who owns a mansion (apparently) from the money she made editing movie trailers, but the British woman also books next day travel?  On a low-level newspaper society reporter's salary?  No way, no how.  Unless she had like a zillion frequent-flyer miles saved up and was planning to use them, but even then, late December would probably be a blackout period, so those wouldn't have been any good.  And that's a case of me trying to come up with reasoning that explains the screenwriter's mistake.  

Besides, her brother clearly states, "Iris never goes anywhere." So it's doubtful she was saving up miles for a trip she wasn't planning to take, and it's even possible that she wouldn't have a passport, or a proper suitcase, if we're to believe that she never travels.  And if she never travels, why did she have her house listed on an exchange, which would mean that she'd be prepared to travel whenever?  Which is it, does she travel or not?  There are plenty of other N.P.'s, like one woman leaves her dog for two weeks without writing down any instructions regarding his care, the women trust each other with their cars in addition to their houses, everyone in L.A. seems to work in the movie business - but the airfare thing really bothered me the most. 

Even if you believe the incredibly outlandish premise - that switching houses somehow "fixes" both women's lives, once you start thinking about the details, the whole thing starts to unravel.  I can get that a change in latitude can bring about a change in attitude, but this is just too much to swallow.  And I'm sorry, but a character not being physically able to cry, and then learning how, should not count as development or growth.  What a cheap-ass way to telegraph an ending.

Also starring Kate Winslet (last seen in "Little Children"), Jude Law (last seen in "Sleuth"), Eli Wallach (last seen in "Keeping the Faith"), Edward Burns (last seen in "Friends With Kids"), Rufus Sewell (last seen in "The Legend of Zorro"), Shannyn Sossamon (last seen in "A Knight's Tale"), Bill Macy, Shelley Berman, with cameos from Kathryn Hahn (last seen in "Bad Words"), John Krasinski (last heard in "The Prophet"), James Franco (last seen in "The Interview"), Alex O'Loughlin, Dustin Hoffman (last seen in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events") and Lindsay Lohan (last seen in "Mean Girls")

RATING: 5 out of 10 Blockbuster rentals

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