Dir: Nancy Meyers. US. 2006.136mins.

Queen of saccharine Nancy Meyers returns with The Holiday, a bloated romantic comedywhich will inevitably be the indulgence of choice for millions of predominantlyfemale moviegoers during the upcoming holiday season. With What Women Want and Something's Gotta Give, Meyersestablished her own brand of contemporary rom-com:guilty pleasure fantasies of love and longing set among successful people intheir multi-million dollar residences. TheHoliday is more of the same.

Columbia Pictures isreleasing the film domestically on Dec 8 and Universal/UIP is releasing it inmost international territories throughout December. It should perform up to Something's GottaGive standards - $142m internationally and $127m domestically - andpossibly above.

Meyers has a gift for wittydialogue, there's no question. She also has the knack of casting superb actorsin her stories. But make no mistake, she is no Lubitsch or McCarey. Herperspective on relationships is twee and she lackssparkle as a director, not to mention discipline in the cutting room (136minutes for a frothy comedy'). This is a precisely calculated crowd-pleaserwith only the thinnest veneer of authenticity, and critics will treat it assuch.

Her prose is made to look moresubstantial, however, by an appealing troupe of actors. In her firstcontemporary English role, Kate Winslet is enormouslydisarming as a young woman tormented by her unrequited love; Jude Law has neverbeen this engaging as her brother Graham, showing comic skill and buckets ofcharm. The two British dramatic actors make a good match for their seasonedcomic co-stars, the always likeable Cameron Diaz and the gifted Jack Black.

Winslet plays Iris Simpkins, an obit writer at The Daily Telegraph in London who ishopelessly in love with the paper's star writer Jasper (Sewell), an old flamewho dumped her but continues to lead her on. The film starts with theannouncement that he is getting married to someone else, leaving Iris bereftand sobbing in her absurdly beautiful picture postcard Surrey cottage.

Diaz plays Amanda Woods, asuccessful movie trailer-maker who lives in a gigantic mansion in Los Angeles.She is also emotionally frigid and her private life is in tatters after shefinds out that her live-in boyfriend (Burns) has been cheating on her.

Just before Christmas, anexasperated Amanda finds an internet site that specializes in home exchangesand stumbles across iris' cottage. On impulse, she gets in touch with her andthe two agree to move into each other's homes for two weeks starting thefollowing day.

Within a jiffy, the homelyIris is whooping it up amid the luxuries of Amanda's house, while designer-cladAmanda is tripping up down country lanes on her way to Iris' cosy cottage.

Iris befriends Amanda'snext-door neighbour - an aging screenwriter Arthur (Wallach),who encourages her to watch all the great Hollywood screwball comedies - andfinds romance with film composer Miles (Black).

Meanwhile Amanda findsherself falling for Iris' brother Graham (Law) who knocks on her door drunk onenight. While initially suspecting him to be a womaniser, she quickly finds outthat he is a widower with two kids also living in a handsome country cottagenearby.

Naturally both women findtrue happiness and both couples are reunited for a good old song and dancenumber in rural Surrey.

Since any semblance ofrealism is jettisoned early on in the proceedings, disbelief has to besuspended immediately. The notion that a woman like Amanda would turn over hermeticulously designed Hollywood Hills palace to a stranger is as absurd as thespeed with which Arthur's tribute from The Writer's Guild OfAmerica is organized between Christmas and New Year. Yes, that was The Writer's Guild.

Meyers gets plenty ofHollywood insider references and jokes into her script, showing Amanda at workon the trailer for a bad action movie (starring Lindsay Lohanand James Franco, no less) and using Arthur to mouth off about how much moreconducive to good work the studio system was in the old days. Now that's afact.

Production companies
Waverly Films

US distribution
Columbia Pictures

International distribution
Universal Pictures

Executive producer
Suzanne Farwell

Nancy Meyers
Bruce A Block

Nancy Meyers

Dean Cundey

Production design
Jon Hutman

Joe Hutshing

Hans Zimmer

Main cast
Cameron Diaz
Kate Winslet
Jude Law
Jack Black
Eli Wallach
Edward Burns
Rufus Sewell