‘Tis the season for festive cheer, twinkling lights, and endless debates over the ultimate holiday movie. While Love Actually has long been hailed as the ultimately reigning champion of Yuletide cinema, let’s take a moment to unwrap the real gift of the season: The Holiday, which has been dominating Netflix UK’s top ten films chart for four weeks.
First on our naughty list is Love Actually’s strange penchant with men who have no sense of workplace and personal boundaries. Much has been written about Andrew Lincoln’s Mark professing his love to his best friend’s newly wedded wife (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Keira Knightley). But the real issue with Love Actually is how it is smattered with workplace antics that would have HR departments working overtime. And there is more! From fat-shaming Martine McCutcheon’s character, Natalie, to Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, and Colin Firth’s David, Harry, and Jamie actively pursuing their employees as if it were an Olympic sport.
Rickman’s silver fox lets his charisma slide into the murky waters of infidelity, breaking hearts and home furnishings along the way. Emma Thompson deserved better! The Holiday, on the other hand, highlights that love doesn’t need a side dish of betrayal. Plus, who wouldn’t want to cosy up to Jack Black over the holidays?
Of course, Love Actually is a feel-good film at the end of the day, and all is resolved with as much holiday cheer as Richard Curtis could muster. And it still makes for a rather solid holiday season cinematic escapade.
However, when it comes to Christmas film superiority, Nancy Meyers’s The Holiday wins by a mile. There’s just something very soothing about Meyers movies. The Holiday invites us into the beautiful homes of two strong, independent women—Amanda’s (Cameron Diaz) stunning yet snug LA mansion and Iris’s (Kate Winslet) enchanting English cottage in Surrey. No body-shaming here, just fabulous real estate and empowered leading ladies.
Iris gets to tell off her tormentor, Jasper (Rufus Sewell), who breaks her heart and continues to lead her on forever. Amanda gets to punch her cheating ex. Eli Wallach’s charming Arthur becomes another delightful part of The Holiday who ends up stealing scenes and hearts. Dustin Hoffman’s uncredited and unplanned cameo in the Blockbuster scenes as Jack Black’s Miles talks about the score from The Graduate is another cherry on the whole holiday cake.
In short, The Holiday sleighs while Love Actually skids. The Holiday, with its blend of humour, heart, and homes that you’d mortgage your soul for, is the cinematic blanket that is cosier. And, that Hans Zimmer score soars.
However, even The Holiday isn’t beyond criticism, of course. Diversity, or the lack thereof, is a Grinch-sized problem in both films. Love Actually left two of the most diverse storylines on the editing floor. One involved a lesbian storyline with Anne Reid and Frances de La Tour. The other storyline involved a couple based in Africa. Even The Holiday, with its transatlantic tale of love and self-discovery, failed to open the door to a broader spectrum of human experiences. Both these films are largely just about white people sipping hot cocoa in picturesque settings.
Alas, those of us who are just starting to see a semblance of equitable representation on-screen have to compromise heavily when picking from nostalgic favourites.