The Holiday Nancy Meyers

Movie pitches often start life as a one-line synopsis; the catchy ones can sell a whole picture. The Holiday’s probably went like this: an uptight L.A. princess (Diaz) and a miserable English rose (Winslet), total strangers whose only commonality is a recent break-up, trade homes — and lives — for Christmas. See how tight that is? Just fill in the blanks.

Oh, if only she had. Sadly, writer-director Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give) misses badly with this pallid blob of a movie. The characters are underwritten, the plot is bare and the laughs are few. The main characters scarcely interact with the outside world, thereby robbing the movie of all kinds of potential "fish out of water” comedy moments, not to mention character and plot development. Carmen Diaz and Jude Law are an un-cuddly study in teeth and cheekbones; Diaz’s goofing off feels mirthless, while Law, in his big declaratory scene, has trouble keeping a straight face.

Realising halfway through that their story is going nowhere funny or moving, Meyers suddenly introduces a "trailer voice” gimmick for Diaz (hello, Stranger than Fiction?) and a tragic back-story for Law. They don’t help. Kate Winslet and Jack Black fare better: they at least have an honest best pals, almost gay boyfriend chemistry that makes their scenes a little more fun, even if they don’t click as a romantic pair.

The only healthy colour in the picture is given over to a side story about an aging Hollywood screenwriter (Eli Wallach) that one suspects is totally irrelevant even while Meyers devotes a third of the film to fleshing it out. Then, having built up the arc, she bails on the poor guy and his story smack in the middle of what should be his pinnacle scene, and we never see him again.

There might have been good bones in the synopsis but it’s as though Meyers mislaid the one-liner and spends the entire movie looking for it. She’s upturning characters and scenes, rooting around in secondary plots: "Is it here? Under there?” Alas, she never does find it and we’re left to deal with the mess.