Last Holiday Wayne Wang
Published Dec 01, 2005Queen Latifah is Georgia Byrd, a department store employee leading a quiet life in the suburbs of Louisiana. Privately, she fantasises about travelling abroad and nurses an attraction to her co-worker, Sean Matthews (LL Cool J). Once diagnosed with a terminal illness, Georgia casts off her inhibitions: she quits her job, collects her life savings and travels to Prague. There, she checks into the presidential suite of a gaudy upper-crust hotel in ski season where, by coincidence, various powerful people who have figured in her life happen to be staying. Her outspoken opinions draw attention from aristocrats, such as department store magnate Matt Kragen (Timothy Hutton) and Senator Dillings (Giancarlo Esposito).
Wayne Wang's newest fluffy comic romance follows his Because of Wynn-Dixie and Maid in Manhattan as lazy, cloyingly sentimental and bewildering films. There was a time in the mid-'90s when director Wang was producing work far removed from his recent Hughes-ian tearjerker romances powerful, poetic films such as Smoke and Chinese Box.
In Last Holiday, the comedy is flat, the music is robust and the on-screen tears rarely let up. The Supporting performances are more worthwhile than the leads: Matt Ross has more venom in his poorly-written cameo as Georgia's supervisor than Hutton can muster throughout most of the film, and Gerard Depardieu has an endearing bit as Georgia's accessible hero, celebrity chef Didier.
As a remake, the film offers nothing new to Henry Cass's 1950 Alec Guinness vehicle. Unlike its subtle predecessor, it assaults the viewer with banalities such as a billboard that reads "Put Christ Back in Christmas." If concealed in the film's superficial packaging is a provocative treatment of the urban American middleclass experience, that message has been covered with a Hallmark gloss. (Paramount)