NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by Erika who says... "...at 2 hours and 15 minutes, I checked my watch occasionally. But considering that they managed to squeeze in two love stories and not too much typical Hollywood fluff, the timing wasn't too bad. The movie doesn't feel like you've seen it 100 times before."
THE HOLIDAY opens with Iris (Kate Winslet) narrating about different types of love, as we see various couples. She mentions that she is the victim of unrequited love, which is the worst kind, and explains that she has been in love with a man for three years who does not love her back. We see that she is at an office holiday party, and the camera lingers on a man across the room, who must be the man she was talking about. A coworker sees Iris staring at him and asks if she is still in love with Jasper (Rufus Sewell). Iris sadly says yes and she begins to discuss how Jasper broke her heart by cheating on her with their coworker Sara. Her boss interrupts and reminds her that she needs to get her article finished before the newspaper goes to press. She excuses herself from the party and heads to her office.
Apparently Iris covers marriages for the society pages, and as she puts the finishing touches on her article, Jasper comes into her office and comments on what a hard worker she is. They make small talk and she says she’s glad to see him because she has something for him. She pulls a nicely wrapped gift out of a drawer. He tells her that he has a gift for her as well, but it isn’t with him. He promises that she will “look hot in it.” Her gift is a first edition of a book, and he is impressed. She reminds him that he was admiring it a few years earlier at little bookstore. He looks embarrassed but before he can say anything, the head of the newspaper calls everyone at the party together for an announcement. He says to Iris that he knows it’s Christmas, but she needs to get to work right away on another marriage story, and that she will have the inside scoop because their very own Jasper and Sara are getting married. Everyone in the office begins to cheer except for Iris, who is shocked and fighting back tears. Jasper is smiling until he sees her, and he looks at the floor. We see Iris relatively composed until she finally gets into her cottage, and as the screen fades to black we hear her sobbing.
We see a pool and a large house in Los Angeles, complete with a pool and a gardener. The camera pans into the house and we see Ethan (Edward Burns) just waking up after spending the night on the couch. He quietly heads down the hall to a bedroom, and as he gingerly opens the door he is greeted by a shoe flying past his head. We see Amanda (Cameron Diaz) holding the other shoe in mid-air. Ethan says, “I did not sleep with her!” and Amanda responds by throwing the other shoe. She is kicking him out of the house and trying to get him to admit that he slept with his receptionist, which he keeps denying. She throws a few clothes outside and shuts the door, telling him she will ship the rest of his items. She is glad they only lived together and never married. Ethan is outside yelling about how Amanda doesn’t show emotion and can’t cry, and that she sabotages her relationships. She comes to the upstairs balcony and asks again if he slept with the receptionist. He finally admits that yes, he has been sleeping with her for some time because unlike Amanda, she actually likes having sex and she’s young. “Are you happy now?” His final comment sends her storming back outside and she answers his question by punching twice in the face. She tries to cry about the breakup but only suffers an “esophagal spasm.”
Back inside the house, she is called to her home office to review a final edit for a Lindsay Lohan movie trailer. She is good at what she does and owns her own editing company. She tells her two employees that she is going on vacation for Christmas, and begins searching online for a place that isn’t too romantic for a single person (ruling out Bora-Bora) and where they speak English (so she picks England). She likes the name Surrey, so she searches and sees a cute cottage, which we recognize as belonging to Iris. It is remote and sounds like just what she needs to feel better, so she sends an instant message. On the other end, Iris is still crying and drinking wine, but is instantly perked up by the idea that someone wants to rent her cottage. Looking around, she says that the cottage is only available for a home exchange, and that they have to switch cars as well. Amanda agrees, and asks if there are any single men in Surrey. Iris says, “zero,” which is just what Amanda wanted to hear. They are both anxious for a change and agree to start the ten-day exchange the next day.
On Iris’ plane, she flirts with a guy who turns out to be traveling with his girlfriend. Meanwhile, Amanda can’t sleep because she keeps hearing the unmistakable voice of the ‘movie trailer guy’ narrating her life as though it were a movie. This is a recurring joke throughout the film. Back on the ground, Amanda’s driver won’t take her to the cottage because it has freshly snowed and he’s afraid he won’t be able to turn around, so she walks about a mile in the snow and her high heels. She unpacks, looks around the house and is bored within the hour. She drives Iris’ Mini Cooper into town and hits up a local grocery store where she happily buys food high in carbs and a few bottles of wine.Iris absolutely loves her L.A. house and runs from room to room and goes swimming. Later, Miles (Jack Black) shows up at the house with his girlfriend Maggie (Shannyn Sossamon). He explains that he scores movies and is friends with Ethan and Amanda. Amanda was supposed to give him something, but Iris doesn’t know where it is and says she’ll call Amanda about it. It’s very windy, and Miles explains that at Christmastime in L.A., the Santa Ana winds blow, causing crazy weather, and that you never know what will happen. As he leaves he tells her, “don’t blow away.” She notices an elderly man walking past the driveway with the help of a younger nurse, and goes inside. It’s the middle of the afternoon, but 1:00 in London, and to her delight she finds that Amanda has automatic room-darkening shades and goes to sleep.
A drunken Graham (Jude Law) banging on the door and yelling for Iris to open up awakens Amanda at 2am. He is surprised to see Amanda, and she explains about the home exchange. He says that he is Iris’ brother and that Iris prefers him to get a ride to her house when he’s been out drinking than to drive home. They are obviously attracted to each other and start to flirt. He asks how she likes England, and she says that she has moved her flight up to 8am the next day. He says she didn’t give it a chance. He asks if she’s married and she says no. He says he isn’t either, but his love life is complicated. Graham gives her a quick peck goodnight, but Amanda makes him do it again and again. Finally she says since they will never see each other again, and she’s in a strange house in a strange country, they should have sex. She warns him that her ex told her she is bad at sex and after she gives him another lingering kiss he tells her that she is already off to a great start.
The next morning he comes downstairs as she is making coffee and tells her that her ex is wrong. He tries to convince her to stay for the full ten days, but she doesn’t look keen on the idea. He tries to kiss her and she says she doesn’t want to complicate things any further. His cell phone rings and as Amanda hands it to him, she says it’s Sophie calling and apologizes for looking at the caller id. He shrugs and says he’ll call her back later. Graham says that there’s something about Amanda that he really likes and again asks her to stay. He says he’s having dinner at the pub with friends that night, and if she decides to stay she should meet them there. And if not, “well…you’re lovely.” She goes to the airport and is obviously still thinking about Graham. We see him at the pub that night with his friends and as he looks around, he sees her at a nearby table smiling at him.
The next morning she comes downstairs as he is making coffee and she looks embarrassed and comments on how much she drank. She asks if they had sex again and he says “call me old-fashioned, but I don’t sleep with unconscious women.” He invites her to lunch so that they can get to know each other. His cell phone rings and Amanda hands it to him. It’s Olivia calling and she apologizes again for seeing that. He takes the call outside, and she remarks to herself that he has a lot of women in his life. Sophie, Olivia, and now her, so he probably doesn’t think she is special. But she’s on vacation, so she isn’t looking for a relationship anyway, and decides not to back out on the lunch date.
Iris is in L.A. and as she drives down the street, she notices the same elderly man (Arthur, played by Eli Wallach) she saw the day before. He is alone and looks confused. She asks if he needs help and he says he doesn’t know where he lives. She drives him home and shows him that they are next door neighbors. He explains that all of the old houses have been torn down to build new ones, so he sometimes forgets where he lives since he has no landmark. She follows him into the house and sees many awards, including an Oscar, in his office. However, they are kind of haphazard and show that he doesn’t have much interest in his past. Noticing old food sitting out, Iris invites him to dinner at a restaurant that night and he happily agrees. She finds out that he used to work for MGM and was a writer for many top movies. As she tells him about Jasper, he tells her that she needs to make some changes. As they would say in the movie biz, she is the leading lady but she is playing the role of the best friend. He recommends some old 1940s movies for her to view, none of which he wrote, which makes her like him even more. As she gets home, Jasper calls asking if she will help edit some pages of a story he wrote. She reluctantly agrees that he can ship the pages and goes to bed.
At lunch, Amanda explains that she last cried at age 15 when her parents divorced. They had been such a close family that until then they called themselves The Three Musketeers. Now she has trust issues, rarely opens up to men and can’t cry. Graham is shocked that she can’t cry and admits that he is a weeper, a big baby crier, etc. He tells her that everyone in his family is a writer or an editor, including him, and he praises his sister’s good work. When Amanda tries to find out more about him, he feels like he’s put on the spot and objects. He takes her to see a few local sights and they have a great time, but she pulls away when he tries to kiss her as he drops her off. She says again that things are complicated and she’s leaving in nine days. In the house, she is obviously regretting her decision for the rest of the evening. That night she jumps out of the tub and shows up unannounced at Graham’s place with wine and food. He comes to the door but doesn’t open it very wide and looks uncomfortable. Amanda asks, “You aren’t alone, are you?” just as a little girl comes to the door and asks, “Who is it, Daddy?” Amanda is surprised and mouths “daddy!” He says that is his daughter Sophie. Another little girl comes running up, whom he introduces as Olivia. Amanda grins as she realizes that Graham’s daughters have been calling his phone, not other women. The girls are entranced with Amanda, who they think looks like a real life Barbie doll, and they complain that their father never has big girls over. They are happy because they think the bag of food is for them. Amanda spells out “d-i-v-o-r-c-e-d?” to which Graham replies “w-i-d-o-w-e-r.” The four of them have hot chocolate, and Graham does silly things to entertain his daughters. They insist on showing Amanda the tent in their bedroom, and they all get in and look at the stars hanging inside it. Sophie says that they love their dad very much, and that they call themselves The Three Musketeers. Amanda looks at Graham who smiles and moves his hand onto hers. After the kids go to sleep they discuss their situation. Amanda feels that she definitely can’t be involved now because of what it would do to the kids when she left for the States, so they agree not to see each other anymore.
In L.A., Miles shows up to so that Iris can give him the item Amanda left, and he brings a FedEx package that was by the entrance gate. She sees Jasper’s name on it and rolls her eyes as she tosses it on the foyer table. She invites Miles to come in and join her Hanukkah party for Arthur, who is Jewish. He and a few of his old script-writing buddies are having drinks and playing cards. They ask Miles about his love life, and he says that he is dating an actress who is off shooting on location. One of them tries to hook him up with Iris, but he says that he only dates one woman at a time, and right now her name is Maggie. The men decide to call it a night, and as Miles helps Iris clean up, she asks if he’d like to come over and watch some of the movies Arthur recommended. He agrees, and as he goes off into the windy night, she repeats his words… “Don’t blow away.” She spots Jasper’s pages still on the table, and glances briefly at his article. Just then Jasper calls asking if she got his package, and she assures him that she’s working on it right now. She throws the pages on the floor in disgust and goes to sleep.
As Iris is visiting her new friend Arthur, she gives him his mail and notices he has one from an actor’s guild, which he throws in the trash without opening. He tells her that they keep trying to honor him, and he doesn’t think he was very influential. Besides, probably only eleven people will show up to see him looking old and using a walker. Iris is determined to have him honored, so there is a montage where we see them in Amanda’s pool doing water aerobics to help Arthur get stronger. He visits a tailor and is looking healthier. Miles agrees to write some music that will be played when Arthur is introduced. He writes a fun little ditty for Arthur and a song with the same notes, but more intriguing and beautiful. He tells Iris that is how she would sound if she were a song. Her eyes water.
Meanwhile, we see Amanda and Graham going about their business in England, looking lonely. Graham finally calls Iris in L.A. to see how she’s doing, and asks if Amanda has called. Iris has a call waiting, so she clicks over and it’s Amanda who wastes no time asking how Graham is doing. Knowing her brother, Iris immediately realizes they slept together. There is a funny scene here where Iris keeps trying to click over to the other line to yell at her brother but keeps accidentally yelling at Amanda instead. It’s time for Iris to meet up with Miles, who takes her to a local video store. He is in awe of other movie scores, and holds up dvds as he loudly sings the movie theme music. When he gets to “Mrs. Robinson” and holds up a copy of “The Graduate,” Dustin Hoffman does a cameo, shaking his head from further up the aisle. As Miles is dancing around he sees his girlfriend Maggie walk by the video store window, holding hands with another man. He confronts her and she says she missed her flight for the movie shoot a few days ago and didn’t get a chance to tell him. He is heartbroken and takes Iris home.
Jasper calls again and asks if Iris got his second package. She looks around the house and sees nothing and tells him that she will see if it’s down at the gate. She opens the front door to find him standing on the porch, still holding his cell phone. He apologizes for surprising her but says he just had to see her and that he misses her. He gives her his Christmas present and she is excited to see him. He’s impressed with Amanda’s house and says that it suits Iris’ personality. They end up on the couch making out about to have sex when he makes a comment that makes her realize he is still engaged to Sara. She can’t understand why he came to see her, and then has an epiphany. He looks confused as she goes into a monologue. She now understands why Arthur wanted her to watch those old movies. They all had strong leading ladies, and now she realizes she can be one. “And after three years I can finally say that I am not in love with you anymore!” (Some audience members applauded here) She kicks him out and goes to sleep with a smile on her face. Graham bangs on Amanda’s door late at night and they have sex again. She tells him they can try to work something out and eventually it will probably all end anyway, or they can just have fun one last night. He says that he is falling in love with her and to just let it happen, but she tries to change the subject. He tells her she’s trying to sabotage their relationship and she says that’s what she does.
Soon it is the tenth and final day of the home exchange. Iris and Miles are having lunch at a sushi bar and are looking forward to Arthur’s event that evening. They are joking and Miles is happy that they are both single. They are laughing because he accidentally grazed her breast when he gets a call from Maggie. He agrees to come see her in thirty minutes. Iris is a little flustered because she’s still eating, but tells him he can take her home now. She reminds him that he needs to bring Arthur’s music to the event. He says he hopes he can make it back on time, but Maggie wants to work things out and he needs to see her. We see glimpses of Maggie apologizing to him. He looks thoughtful. Iris gets dressed up and Arthur is in his new tailored tux, heading to his event. The red carpet is empty and the security guard says they are ready for him. The doors open, and eleven people aren’t there, as Arthur had predicted. There are hundreds of people giving him a standing ovation as he and Iris head to the front of the auditorium. She takes a seat and an escort offers to help him up the few stairs onto the stage, but he says he can climb them by himself, which he does. He makes a joke to the audience about being able to walk without assistance. As he’s giving his speech, Miles shows up and tells Iris that he did not get back with Maggie. He’s tired of always ending up with bad girls. Iris says Maggie wasn’t a bad girl and he says, “well she wasn’t good.” He doesn’t really know how long-distance relationships work, but he’d like to come to England and be her date for New Year’s Eve. She readily agrees.
Because of the time difference, it’s already the last day for Amanda and Graham. Weeper that he is, he is trying not to cry and Amanda is trying to make herself cry. They remind each other that they will visit each other on holidays and hopefully other times in between. The driver is waiting for her, and in the car she is sad. Suddenly she starts to gasp and the driver asks if she’s okay. A tear comes out, and then two, then three, and she begins to laugh as she touches her tears. The driver makes a face like she is crazy and she begs him to turn around. He reminds her that he can’t turn around on that road, so she tells him to stop and runs all the way back to the house. Graham is moping around looking miserable, and is happy to see Amanda again but embarrassed to be caught crying. She tells him that she does love him and she wants to work things out.
TWO WEEKS LATER is flashed on the screen, and we see that everyone is in England at Graham’s house. It’s New Year’s Eve. Miles is there with Iris, Amanda is with Graham, and Olivia and Sophie are playing together. They all dance, drinking egg nog and having a good time as the screen fades to black and the credits begin to roll.