Monday, December 16, 2013

A Holiday Evening


Last week, I told my sister over gchat that I wanted to watch The Holiday for a blog post; I said I was going to take notes on whether the scenes in England are realistic or if they're a Hollywood fantasy of what winter/Christmas in the countryside looks like.  You know what Sarah said?
Point taken, Sarah.  I still wanted to watch the film, though, so I invited my friends Claire and Beth over last night for some good winter food and a viewing.  Most of our commentary wasn't committed to paper, but here were our general thoughts:

- Cameron Diaz is annoying and totally over-acts
- that whole "I haven't cried since I was 15" plot point is unnecessary
- Jude Law is really good looking with hair (even if Beth did call him Hugh Grant at one point)
- Kate Winslet is an everywoman goddess
- I need to make sure my children have English accents (Claire practiced saying "you look like my Barbie" at random moments throughout the evening)
- real relationships don't move that fast*

Of course, since it's me, I did jot down a few notes during the first 30 minutes or so of the movie on the whole England-as-understood-by-Hollywood thing.  If you want the fantasy to stay alive... well, actually, I'm not ruining anything epic for you here, so read on!

- Rosehill Cottage, Iris' house in England, has a stovetop kettle.  I have never met a British person who uses a stovetop kettle unless he/she has an American living in his/her house.  Almost without exception, Brits use electric kettles.  (Yes, this caused a slight row when Jon and I were putting together our registry; no one won in the end because we picked an electric kettle that was discontinued, so we didn't get one off the list at all.)
- English countryside roads are just as difficult to navigate as they look in the movie - many rural lanes don't have much room for passing and turning around is quite difficult.
- You absolutely need to wear layers (and possibly even hats, as Cameron Diaz does on her first night) to bed during the winter in old houses like Rosehill Cottage.  And yes, a lit fire in every room is necessary.
- Similarly, you can count on running into low beams and doorframes in old houses.  I've been visiting Jon's childhood home since 2008 and I can still guarantee that I'll hit my head at least once per trip.  They just built for different specs a couple hundred years ago!  (However, it turns out that Rosehill Cottage is a fake, built especially for the movie.)
- I have never taken a train out of London as luxurious or as empty as those that Iris and Graham travel on.  Commuter trains are usually strewn with discarded newspapers and passengers are packed in like sardines.
- Gorgeous big old country houses that are open to the public are all over the English countryside and it's lovely to go for an afternoon to enjoy lunch and wander the grounds.  (For what it's worth, the exterior where they filmed the one where Amanda and Graham have lunch is near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, a good 90 minute drive from the area in Surrey where many of the countryside scenes were filmed, but that's just me being contrary.)  You can find out more about the filming locations here if you want!

Our snark aside, it was such a fun relaxed evening with wonderful company and free-flowing wine and, if I do say so myself, excellent food.  I made this shepherd's pie topped with a generous sprinkling of sharp cheddar and we all ate entirely too many gingerbread cake cookies thanks to a recipe on TheKitchn.  Despite the fact that we couldn't figure out how to connect my new Chromecast to my wifi network and so watched the movie on my laptop, it was a perfect little holiday gathering!

*Beth was horrified to discover that Jon and I said "I love you" after only three weeks of dating.  It's a miracle we're married, really.
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  1. Cameron Diaz IS annoying, but I always love Kate Winslet! Also, my husband and I were the exact same way--"I Love you" after about two weeks! Twenty year old me would have shuddered at the thought!

  2. Jess Gerrow / The Stroke BlogDecember 16, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    Hah! I just watched that movie last week and had nearly identical comments. Cameron Diaz totally overacts, and her character is so blergh compared to Kate Winslet's. But, ohmygod Jude Law crying and playing a hot widower dad? Balances it all out :)

  3. Haha! This is an awesome post. Totally agree that Cameron Diaz overacts. My fav part of this movie is when Jude Laws kids say that they are the 3 Musketeers. I always shed a tear!

  4. I just remembered this movie recently and added it to my mental list of movies I need to watch in the next 9 days. I do love this one, even if the Cameron Diaz storyline is a little meh and unrealistic. You are dead on about Kate Winslet though. Gosh she's impeccable.

  5. haha I know me too! AND it was the same night as the first time I met Jon's parents. oops :P

  6. ME TOO! Beth made fun of me when I got choked up at the tent scene.

  7. haha I love it too! no snark can keep me away :)

  8. The house they faked looks remarkably like our first farmhouse from the front. It's weird. And it had frightfully low doorways and over-stairways, which was kind of entertaining since our at-least 6'4" landlord grew up there! Paul had to duck for several of the doors, and he's only 5'11"!

    (picture here, but it doesn't show the double chimneys we had just like The Holiday house: )

    And funny about the kettles- I was at our neighbors' one afternoon, a couple a few years older than us, and she put the kettle on for tea, and she actually put a kettle on the stove! I said something about an electric kettle, and she said she'd grown up with an Aga and just got used to stovetop kettles. Although we also knew several homes (other than ours) with Agas who still used electric kettles, so there's that!

  9. hehehehe I told Peter I was in love with him after a week of dating (and 3 months of knowing him.) still strong after 3 years, so go figure! Also, tiny British accents might be my favorite thing in the world and I really hope my littles have them!

  10. Kate Winslet has a line in there that sums up my feelings about the movie - and about life in general, for that matter. "I like corny. I need corny in my life." I love The Holiday. To hell with accuracy.

  11. This is one of my favorite holiday movies although I do agree with you about the 'haven't cried since I was 15 bit'. I think it was in there to show how tough she's supposed to be but DON"T CARE!

    Your * point made me laugh... I think Gregory and I said it about the three week month as well, and then of course only ten months later I was in The LPV!

    I didn't cop on to the stovetop kettle part before, well spotted! x

  12. FINE, I'm old-fashioned.

  13. I love that you, me, and all the commenters agree that Cameron Diaz is just too much because Fredrik loves her in that movie and every time I am like WHAT!! As for the relationship think after knowing Fredrik two weeks we were planning on me moving to Sweden to live with him so yeah!

  14. I was in love with Beau weeks before he asked me to be his girlfriend... We would have said it sooner, but neither of us wanted to say it over skype, so we had to wait until we saw each other in person.

    I didn't know anyone in France with a stove top kettle--they all had electric ones. I've been borrowing my friend's stove top kettle for the last year, and I love it. I want my own!

    I don't remember the train scene, but it's been over a year since I last watched The Holiday. I've only been to London once, and the train I took in and out of the city was the Eurostar to and from Paris. It was very nice, but definitely not empty. Would you say an accurate point-of-comparison might be the RER that connects Paris to its suburbs? For whatever real train that wasn't in the movie?

  15. And then the cute old man tells her something about how she could write screenplays or something!

  16. oh no I feel like we're all ganging up on Beth! I'M SORRY @littlebindc!

  17. ooooh I like your old house. I MEAN IT'S HORRIBLE YOU SHOULD BE GLAD TO BE BACK IN AMERICA. (better?)

  18. you should follow my friend Bethie on Instagram (Bethielethie) because she sometimes has videos of her daughter, who was born in the US but learned to talk in London - she sounds SO sweet!

  19. haha after the row in Crate&Barrel, I ALWAYS notice stovetop kettles in England (and Jon always notices the rare electric kettle in the US!)

  20. well, labels shmabels - sometimes you just know :)

    I never took a train to the outskirts of Paris during rush hour, so I don't know what an accurate comparison would be in France. but the train in The Holiday is EMPTY and plush, and that's not what commuting to the suburbs of London is like alas!

  21. "- that whole "I haven't cried since I was 15" plot point is unnecessary" Agreed, but I really enjoy Cameron Diaz in this movie otherwise. :)

  22. I spent my teenage years a few miles from Shere where a lot of it was filmed, so can identify with the crashing into beams - and those roads are not fun to take your first few driving lessons on!!

    Though what really gets me (as a Glaswegian originally) is Hollywood's depiction of Scotland. There must be a gazillion romantic comedies featuring a wedding in Scotland, which is invariably a Highland castle (in which no one can afford to live any more) and everyone is in kilts on a daily basis and it's all twee and tartan tin quaint.

    I want to see the American relatives show up for a Scottish wedding - in inner city Glasgow, where no one has their own teeth and spends their days head butting iron bru cans and stealing the tires off each other's cars!

  23. We liked our old house too, although the plaster walls that crumbled even when no one was touching them and the 25yo carpet and originally black and white, now black and beige linoleum was a little disconcerting. I did enjoy having a dead body room, though. (The original 18th century meat-smoking room was off the modern kitchen and had been the coal room for much of the home's life.) We played a lot of "what would we change if we owned the house" there.

  24. Glad to know at least some of it is real. You're right about the crying plot line. I also think that is the only time that I will ever find Jack Black to be attractive.

  25. Ah. I love that film - and I always watch it at Christmas time, as a little festive tradition.

    If it restores any faith for you, my parents (who also live in a pretty little village) have always had a stove top kettle....unless the Aga breaks when they resort to electric ones just the same as everyone else!


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