In the tradition of Christmas movies, one of the big themes is love/romance. While I'm mostly a fantasy/Santa Claus Christmas movie kinda guy, there is something I genuinely appreciate about these slice of life, romantic Christmas comedies. In my humble opinion, 'Love, Actually' would be the best example of such a movie, and I've always found it hard to top.
This movie was pretty damn good for what it was, but still can't quite hold a candle. If 'Love, Actually' is the steak, then this is the burger. Still perfectly good, I'd still pick it off the menu, but not quite the same quality.
Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet) lives in London, England, writing a wedding column for a newspaper. She has a very heavy thing for her coworker, Jasper (Rufus Sewell). He doesn't return the same feelings, but still kinda strings her along as he goes ahead and gets engaged to a different colleague. Needless to say, this kinda breaks Iris, and she puts her house up for a two-week exchange in order to get away, hopefully far.
On the other side of the world, Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz), a movie trailer editor, has recently been cheated on by her boyfriend, Ethan (Edward Burns), and likewise wants to get away from everything to try to forget him. The two ladies meet online through the house exchange website Iris uses, and they make the deal to switch things up for those two weeks. Amanda headed to Iris' Surrey cottage, and Iris headed for Amanda's L.A. mansion.
During Amanda's trip, she meets Iris' brother, Graham (Jude Law) and they fall for each other immediately. On the other side of things, Iris befriends her new neighbor, a 90-year-old screenwriter named Arthur (Eli Wallach), who is probably my favourite character in the film, as he's such a kindly, mellow old charmer. He helps her with her self-esteem, and a film composer named Miles (Jack Black) who might be the key to her happiness.
Being that Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz are the leads in a film directed by Nancy Meyers ('Something's Gotta Give', 'It's Complicated') one might very well brush this off as just another predictable romantic comedy. But there is a certain amount of heart and charm put into this, that there were plenty of moments that had me smiling and even laughing. Simply put, the movie leaves you with a feeling of warmth.
Truth be told, I was also very focused on Iris and Miles through this, as my own personal worst habit is falling for the person who isn't right for me at all. Not bad, just not right. I found them to be much more relatable, and they sorta played the everyday people in this. I appreciated Amanda and Graham's story, but it did feel a little overboard at times, and there was an unfortunate reminder of one of my exes in Amanda. But there are moments that help soften things up as well, so it's not all bad.
I'm glad I finally got around to seeing this one. As a fan of 'Love, Actually', I was generally told that this was kinda the coin-flip for best romantic Christmas comedy. And honestly, there were many moments here that made me think of 'Love, Actually'. I feel like this could have been two stories that were cut from it, but not in any kind of rip-off way. It's more like a bonus feature. I could honestly back-to-back them, myself. 'Love, Actually' has become a Christmas tradition, so let's see if this follows. Not for everyone, but it warmed my heart on a personal level.