'The Holiday' is a better Christmas movie than 'Love Actually' and here's why

Dec 08, 2017
Zade Rosenthal/Columbia Pictures/Entertainment Weekly
Whilst swaddled in blankets in front of a fire, dreaming of eggnog and presents, do you want to put on a movie where people suffer, make terrible decisions, and wear ugly clothes? Or would you prefer a charming, heart-warming Nancy Meyers film where nothing bad happens, Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz find love in unexpected places, and everyone owns a nice sweater? That’s what we thought. In this feel-great new classic, English journalist Iris (Winslet) and Los Angeles movie trailer editor Amanda (Diaz) swap homes for Christmas (years before Airbnb!), giving each woman some much-needed me-time and a surprising new love interest. — Isabella Biedenharn

Listen. I know you love "Love Actually." I know it is widely considered a modern holiday classic. I know that the combination of Hugh Grant, Kiera Knightly, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Rowan Atkinson and that kid who played Jojen in "Game of Thrones" makes it pretty hard to dislike this movie. I get it. 

But there’s actually a better modern holiday classic than “Love Actually.” Sorry. It came out three years later and it is called "The Holiday." 

Before you start sending me angry emails, HEAR ME OUT. 

There are many reasons why "Love Actually" hits slightly off the mark. First of all, Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is desperately trying to get with his best friend’s brand-new wife, Juliet (Kiera Knightley), not to mention that creepy wedding video. Then there’s Harry (Alan Rickman), who is totally ruining my love for Professor Severus Snape by being super desperate to cheat on Karen (Emma Thompson) -- who would do such a thing? I mean, Karen is kind of problematic, too, considering she tells Daniel (Liam Neeson), who is mourning the death of his wife, that “no one’s ever gonna shag you if you cry all the time” so like, harsh. American President Billy Bob Thornton sexually harasses Prime Minister Hugh Grant’s One True Love Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) and everyone keeps calling Natalie fat even though she is so incredibly not fat. Also, who falls in love with somebody if you can’t even speak the same language? Looking at you, Colin Firth.

I’m not saying “The Holiday” doesn’t have its issues. I am also not saying that either of these are particularly high quality or good movies. But this is the hill I have chosen to fight and die on, so behold my argument:

1. Kate Winslet's character Iris is one of the most relatable characters in any romantic comedy ever. She gets dumped. She keeps going back to the guy. The guy sucks. It takes her a really, really long time to figure out the guy sucks. Any woman -- nay, any human -- who says they haven't been in her position before is a liar. And gosh, the moment she tells him off makes my heart swell with pride every single time I watch it. Someday I want to tell somebody, “Now I’ve got somewhere really important to be, and you have got to get the hell out.” Savage.

2. Jack Black as a male love interest would not work in any other movie but this one. He’s great. The scene in the movie rental store when he starts singing the soundtracks to famous films is *chef's kiss* excellent. One of my favorite movie Easter eggs is that Black hums Hans Zimmer’s score from “Driving Miss Daisy,” and Zimmer did the score for “The Holiday.” 

3. Graham (Jude Law)  killin' the single dad game. Any parent who lets their daughters build a fort as entirely epic as that one deserves all the awards.

4. Amanda gets drunk and belts out The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” and honestly, same. I implore you: consume several glasses of wine and then scream this made-for-karaoke song at the top of your lungs like nobody’s watching. It will set you free.

5. The scene where Iris teaches Arthur (Eli Wallach) to (kind of) swim is the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. Technically she’s teaching him to walk without a walker, but in a pool. His head dips underwater. Iris rescues him. He shakes water out of his eyes. Everybody laughs. I laugh. My heart grows three sizes. 

6. After learning to walk without assistance, Arthur walks up the stairs on his own to the tune of his own personal soundtrack and I’m not crying you’re crying. Seriously, give this guy every lifetime achievement award there is and let him climb all those stairs. You go, Arthur. 

7. Hans Zimmer’s score is flawless. I know I mentioned it above, but guys, it’s so good. 

8. Iris’ cottage in Surrey is adorable. Where can I get one? Is it on Airbnb? Email me a link, thanks. 

9. When Arthur gives Iris a corsage before their “date.” He says, “Forgive me, the last time I had a date, this is what we did.” I would like a friend like Arthur. He gives great advice, like, “In the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend.” Heart eyes emoji.

10. LITERALLY EVERYTHING ABOUT ARTHUR. Sorry, I can’t get over it. I think he’s so charming.

11. The idea that Iris and Amanda could only find love once they started to love themselves isn’t a new idea, but it’s one I won’t get tired of. Look, I’m all about a movie that ends in a girl-power, fist-in-the-sky defiance where instead of ending up with the guy, the female hero saves herself and conquers the world and maybe gets a new killer wardrobe or something. But if we’re talking about holiday romantic comedies, then this is the ideal ending. Iris learns to let go of her past, and then she falls for her lovely new friend. Amanda gets in touch with her emotions and then falls for Iris’ brother (but, honestly, who wouldn’t). Everyone’s happy. It’s New Year’s Eve in England. Warm fuzzies.

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