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Monday, 10 December 2018

Retro Review: Last Holiday (2006)

Last Holiday
Cast: Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Giancarlo Esposito, Gerard Depardieu
Genre: Romantic Comedy-Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $23 million

Plot: Upon learning of a terminal illness, a shy woman decides to sell off all of her possessions and live it up in a posh European hotel 

'Bland Rom-Com That Trails In Last Place'

Last Holiday is a festive romantic comedy which was loosely based on the 1950 British-based Ealing movie starring Alec Guinness - with the U.S version originally a vehicle for John Candy - only for it to be retooled with a female lead in Queen Latifah. The story has a woman with a terminal illness who transfers from a dreary department store to a luxurious hotel.

Georgia Byrd works in a cookstore of a department store in New Orleans and develops a crush on her co-worker, Sean. When she hits her head whilst talking to Sean, she is horrified to discover she has several tumours in her brain. With only a few weeks to live, Georgia takes out her life savings and does all the things she wants to do before her time is up. So she goes to Europe, with Sean mustering up the courage to open up his feelings for Georgia, even though it might be too late.

LL Cool J is a good actor, but he looked out of place here as Sean; his character wasn't treated so well and so he was pretty much on the sidelines for 90% of the film, whilst Queen Latifah is good; nonetheless, but for Chicago, Set It Off and Living Out Loud - by far and still her career highlights -, she hasn't had as many bold and challenging roles with characters as fully developed and with substance. As for the so-called pairing of LL and Latifah, I hate to say this, but I didn't really sense that romantic spark between them onscreen and it came across as more buddy friendly than it is sexual. 

The comedy is occasionally silly with slapstick elements, but most of it just didn't tickle my funny bone and it treads more along the lines of a screwball comedy. It's as by-the-numbers as any other rom-com that came out before it, and it's not very memorable and was a frustrating watch as I zoned in and zoned out of the film. There just wasn't enough quality going for it and despite triumphing with The Joy Luck Club, Wayne Wang's track record, contrary to the plaudits he has received, is rather patchy and inconsistent with some forgettable fare. Having dabbled with the rom-com formula before in the dissimilar Maid in Manhattan with J-Lo, he gets another stab at the sub-genre; but yet again, it's nothing that extraordinary, nor does he take enough risks and the execution is just not good enough. It's too safe for its own good. Yes, Wang is able to combine and infuse humour with pathos, although unlike his 1993 critically acclaimed, The Joy Luck Club, he doesn't seize the opportunity to turn the Last Holiday into an almost genuine fledgeling drama with characters I really should be caring about. 

Penned by the duo of Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Wild Wild West), the plot - which reminds me of Dying Young with Julia Roberts meets Pretty Woman, and another Julia Roberts film - is a good one, but it could have and should have taken a meatier twist and thus, in the right hands, Last Holiday would have been a far more thought-provoking, moving and engaging affair. Instead, it opts for a lighter, screwball comedy effect with a maudlin and tamely executed story, and this, in turn, took away from the movie.

There are no real, difficult obstacles for Georgia to contend with and to overcome. 

Luckily Queen Latifah as Georgia's performance is likeable and if it wasn't for her, Last Holiday would be straight-to-DVD fare & as the material here is sub-par at best, formulaic as ever, and at most, mediocre that is also sketchy. The supporting cast isn't much to write home about, although, in Gerard Depardieu, he had a few moments that made me smile and was for me the film's best asset (even though there was not one single standout performance) and the food scenes were nice to see. If this film was about food and Georgia becoming a great chef overseas with a romantic subplot thrown in, I'd watch it and probably end up enjoying it more.

Another gripe is that is it takes until 30 mins for the film to kick into gear and running at almost 2 hours, for a rom-com it is too long in the tooth.

Final Verdict:

Queen Latifah is still due her own starring vehicle that displays her talents to the fullest, and not just to demonstrate she can carry a film as a supporting actress. Unfortunately, Last Holiday just isn't that film and almost an hour into it, it lost its way.

It has its audience, especially amongst rom-com lovers, but Last Holiday sadly is a romantic comedy that as well as being not romantic - though not in diabetes sickly romantic way - enough, becomes a sluggish journey, not to mention last 'resort'.


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