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The Holiday is one of my favourite ever festive movies, and it just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me until Mr Napkinhead arrives.
Every year without fail, I’ll find myself swooning anew at Amanda Woods’ (Cameron Diaz) Selling Sunset-worthy home, or getting cross at slimy Jasper Bloom (Rufus Sewell) for messing lovely Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet) around.
However, my favourite part of the film has to be Iris’ blossoming friendship with Arthur Abbott, with the late, great Eli Wallach stealing every single scene at the grand age of 90.
Iris first meets Arthur when she spots him looking a little lost while out and about in their luxurious Californian neighbourhood, confused by the seemingly sudden changes to the area he’s lived for decades.
After he casually name drops screen icon Cary Grant, Iris quickly twigs that there’s more to her temporary neighbour than meets the eye, and soon learns she’s befriended a legendary screenwriter from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Drawn together by a love of stories, the growing bond between Iris and Arthur is for me more interesting than her blossoming romance with Miles Dumont (Jack Black), despite Black being very likeable in this.
As someone who is definitely more an Iris than an Amanda (yes, I too have previously gifted a ridiculously thoughtful present to a bona fide dipstick), I absolutely love her journey to becoming the ‘leading lady’ of her life she was always meant to be, rather than the ‘best friend’ character.
Being both classic romantics at heart, Iris and Arthur’s friendship is a celebration of the power of movies, with Arthur’s cinematic wisdom being apparently more beneficial to Iris than ‘three years of therapy’.
As Iris works her way through Arthur’s list of classic films and gets drawn into the reminiscences of the great screenwriter and his pals, she positions herself quite rightly as the heroine of her own narrative, with life-altering results.
Iris’ dismissive retort to Jasper that she has ‘a life to start living’ makes for one of the most satisfying break-up lines in movie history, with the lovelorn English rose suddenly channelling the fire and sass of Joan Crawford.
However, within this particular plot, Arthur’s role is to guide Iris into showing the sort of ‘gumption’ once written into his own leading ladies. I for one would like to see a festive movie focused on Arthur and his glittering old school Hollywood circle, complete with ‘meet cutes’ galore.
Sadly, Eli Wallach passed away in June 2014 at the age of 98, having lived a life not all that dissimilar Arthur’s.
Having acted with the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, it’s likely this distinguished character actor would have had plenty of recollections to share at Iris’ Hanukkah gathering.
However, I would personally like to see the stories behind the recollections, a Golden Era Hollywood movie set around the festive season, in which ambitious young screenwriter Arthur meets the love of his life and ‘the best girl in town’, Marion.
We already know a fair bit about Arthur’s youth, having got his start as an office boy for Louis B. Mayer at the age of just 17. We know he also must have had plenty of pluck, volunteering for said job after the previous office boy didn’t show up and getting himself on the payroll the very next day.
From here, Arthur managed to build a dazzling, Oscar-worthy career, allegedly even inspiring the IRL iconic line, ‘here’s looking at you kid’. At some point, Arthur met Marion, his muse with ‘the best laugh’, and the girl he ‘always wrote’.
Honestly, I’d be super keen to see a screwball romance about how these soulmates came to meet, all set – of course – within the universe of The Holiday, complete with San Andreas winds, beautiful interiors and fish-out-of-water life swapping.
The story here could very well take place as a young Arthur begins writing a new romantic screenplay, left stumped when trying to write his female lead. Then, fast-talking Marion walks into his life, having answered a newspaper ad from a starlet looking to escape the bright lights of Hollywood for a while.
Movie lover Marion in turn is looking for adventure after breaking off an unsuitable engagement, struck by the sense that something a little more cinematic is waiting for her somewhere.
After exchanging letters back and forth for a while, Marion and the starlet agree to swap homes for the winter period, with the screen siren – let’s call her Lana – moving to Marion’s English cottage. This is of course important as we will still need someone sliding around in the snow in inappropriate shoes.
Initially baffled by rural life, Lana is swept off her feet by the local lord of the manor, giving viewers 1950’s Christmas Prince vibes as she learns to ride horses and inevitably unlocks the softer side of her initially frosty crush. We see it coming, but we sigh over our hot chocolates all the same.
Within this precise same timeline, witty Marion finds her match with romantic, funny Arthur, finding herself quite at home in the breezy Californian sunshine.
While Lana navigates local balls and country fairs, Marion finds herself stepping into the role Lana left behind after an angry director comes knocking on her door. Naturally, Arthur comes to her rescue here, helping to shape her as a leading lady, all while she, in turn, helps inspire his stalled screenplay.
As is probably evident from the above synopsis, I’m not a professional screenwriter myself, and have no casual Oscars chucked about my desk.
However, I am someone who appreciates a good dollop of schmaltzy nostalgia with my Christmas movies, and feel that another dip into this cosy and comforting universe would warm my cockles no end.
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