Instead of having the same tired debate over whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie — it takes place entirely on Christmas Eve at an office holiday party, so, case closed — let's drum up (pa rum pum pum pum) some friendly holiday movie discourse over a more recent film: Nancy Meyers' 2006 rom-com The Holiday. So, I ask, though I may live to regret it: Is The Holiday really a Christmas movie? The answer is no. It's not a Christmas movie, it's a holiday movie. Semantics, one may say, but it's 2020, and I've got the time to unwrap this. In fact, time is a big reason why I wouldn't deem The Holiday a Christmas movie.
In the film, Amanda (Cameron Diaz), a successful movie trailer editor, and Iris (Kate Winslet), a wedding columnist, decide to switch homes — two years before Airbnb was even a thing, mind you — to escape the very bad men in their lives. For two weeks, leading up to New Year's Eve, they plan to cosplay as the other: Amanda goes full cottagecore in Surrey, England; Iris soaks up the Beverly Hills sun while trying not to get blown away by those tricksters, the Santa Ana winds.
The titular holiday is really a reference to the British word for "vacation," but the title is also a wink and a nod to it taking place during the winter holiday season, which, again, includes more than just Christmas. It might be why The Holiday is particularly light on Christmas. While Christmas music plays throughout the film, it always feels as if it's a friendly reminder that it is actually Christmas time. To be fair, as a born and raised New Yorker, it's hard for me to see palm trees and sun and think Christmas. Though, the first time I saw The Holiday, I was actually on holiday in Tucson, Arizona. Go figure.
Unlike most canonical Christmas classics, The Holiday dismisses the usual Christmas movie tropes — and, honestly, any sort of conflict all together. Christmas isn't some sort of deadline for anything like the payback of an unpaid loan (It's A Wonderful Life) or a sports car your dad has used as a bribe (the JTT classic I'll Be Home For Christmas). It's just another date on the calendar. The journeys for both women have nothing to really to do with Christmas. They're not going home for the holidays to face their families or their exes. They're running away from their lives all together.
There are no awkward kisses under the mistletoe. No kids scheming in hopes of finding themselves a mommy for Christmas. No one even talks about what they want for Christmas. (For anyone wondering, all I want for Christmas is to live in a Nancy Meyers designed home.) There are Christmas trees in The Holiday, but we don't get a scene of someone decorating one. There are also no miracle snowfalls. The cold white stuff is merely there to make it more difficult for Amanda to walk in heels.
There is no big Christmas feast, just some sad fettuccine being eaten on the eve of. There are absolutely no visits to or from Santa. Jude Law is Daddy, but, unfortunately, he's no Saint Nick. Even Iris's big kiss-off to her cheating ex Jasper (Rufus Sewell) has absolutely nothing to do with the meaning of Christmas. Linus would be very disappointed.
Christmas is more of an afterthought in The Holiday. However, it doesn't totally ignore the season. Hanukkah gets a whole scene featuring Iris and her delightful nonagenarian crew sharing memories over brisket and Manischewitz. A win, since Hanukkah is far too underrepresented in the holiday movie department. (Though, Refinery29's Anne Cohen argues that The Family Stone is actually the most Jewish Christmas movie.)
The Holiday is merely Christmas adjacent, which is why I would argue that it's the perfect New Year's Eve movie. The film's whole mentality is basically "new year, new you." The two women resolve to get away from their lives and, in the end, they succeed in finding something better. It's a The Secret-style fantasy about what we hope our half-assed resolutions will lead to. For these women, it results in them getting their love lives on track right before ringing in the new year.
The final shot of the movie is of Iris and Amanda finally coming together on New Year's Eve, joined by the guys they managed to snag during their two-week holidays. (Seriously, they should be the spokeswomen for that home exchange site!) They're all dancing, not a care in the world. Odd, since I am left with a lot of questions over how these cross-country relationships are actually going to work. Is Law's Graham moving his young daughters to L.A.? Can Miles compose movie scores in a small cottage across the Atlantic? But with that final wide shot of them forming a conga line, Meyers tells us, "Those are things to worry about tomorrow, sweetie." That predictable and rather cheesy happy ending might be the most Christmas movie thing about The Holiday.
It's actually kind of genius of Meyers to make a "Christmas" movie that sneakily feels best viewed right after December the 25th. The kind of movie you would prefer to snuggle up with after all the holiday madness is over and you need the kind of escape that The Holiday offers. One that lets you get away from all the people you see all the time, or, in Iris's case, the "one person I wanted to get away from."
It's the movie that might actually convince you to make real changes in your life. Maybe, it'll even encourage you to stop behaving like the best friend and start acting like the lead for the next 365 days and beyond. Shout out to Arthur (Eli Wallach) for being a real one.
It's why I suggest making The Holiday part of your year-end self-care routine. It is so clearly meant to be watched while wearing a revitalizing sheet mask and drinking a glass of wine. Feel free to take Amanda's lead and just drink straight out of the bottle. Perhaps, a bottle of Avaline, Diaz's wine company, which helps bring things full circle. Turn it into a December 31 double feature with When Harry Met Sally, another New Year's Eve classic. There will be absolutely no debating that.