'Holiday' not a Christmas story but offers well-played romance

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As a man, I'm not ashamed to admit that I truly enjoyed "The Holiday."

Amanda (Cameron Diaz) is a successful Hollywood player who could not be less successful with relationships.

Iris (Kate Winslet) writes wedding announcements for a London newspaper and is horrified to learn that Jasper (Rufus Sewell), the man she has loved for years is getting married to another woman.

The two of them, both frustrated with men altogether, meet online and agree to switch houses over Christmas.

Amanda is less than impressed by Iris's cottage, but Iris's brother Graham (Jude Law) quickly catches her eye. Likewise, Iris is overwhelmed by Amanda's mansion, but begins meeting people, including a movie composer named Miles (Jack Black) who helps her regain her self-confidence.

Diaz is good as workaholic Amanda, who, thanks to her work on movie trailers, has daydreams resembling film previews. Winslet is even better though; playing a role that seems custom-built for someone like Sandra Bullock or Renee Zellweger.

Jude Law is able to rely on his endless British charm as always, and Jack Black is memorable as Miles, whose passion for music makes his performance even better. However, the man to watch in the film is Eli Wallach, who plays Arthur Abbott, a retired screenwriter whom Iris and Miles befriend.

Writer/director Nancy Meyers ("What Women Want," "Something's Gotta Give") seems to be next in line for the title of "Queen of the Chick Flicks", fast on the heels of Nora Ephron ("Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail") and Penny Marshall ("A League of Their Own," "Riding in Cars with Boys").

Despite the title, it is not a Christmas story. It merely takes place at Christmas. The romantic angles involved are believable and play out nicely throughout the course of the story. Something that hurts the film, though, is that watching Amanda and Graham is not nearly as involving as watching Iris and Miles. Not to say that Amanda and Graham's story is uninteresting, but Iris and Miles are much more complex.

Not to mention the fact that they see Dustin Hoffman in a video store just as they are discussing the music of "The Graduate."

"The Holiday" is a romantic comedy that can appeal to men, women, movie buffs, music buffs, or just anybody looking for an enjoyable story.

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