Movie Review: Holiday

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After getting engaged to a girl from a rich family, a young man who’s worked his whole life decides to take a long holiday.

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George Cukor, 1938

Excited about his engagement to a beautiful girl he just met, Johnny Case (Cary Grant) goes to her home to meet with her. When he arrives, he discovers that Julia Seton (Doris Nolan) lives in an enormous mansion, complete with servants and her whole family. Said family includes her traditional, miserly father Edward (Henry Kolker), her drunken brother Ned (Lew Ayres), who is heir to the family fortune , and her free-spirited sister Linda (Katharine Hepburn). As Johnny tries to win over Edward, he gets to know Julia’s family better. He is supported in his quest to join the family by the fun-loving Ned, who is under pressure in the family business, and Linda, who is overlooked and dismissed at every turn. Johnny reveals his plans to take an extended break from work once married to try to figure out what he wants to do in life, but he finds unexpected roadblocks stand in his way.

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Adapted from a play, this George Cukor film follows a lot of the tropes of the early talkies. People talk fast and flirt hard in huge sets. It’s relatively fun; side characters the Potters, friends of Johnny’s, provide humour and levity to counter the relationship dramas being presented.The movie skims over any real concept of class conflict to be more focused on family drama; there’s some “poor little rich kid” stuff about the pressure having money puts on children, which is especially poignant as a modern viewer knowing the older sisters are unlikely to get anything while the younger brother inherits it all. I sympathised with both sisters, the good and the supposedly bad, though one was a significantly better actress than the other.

There are some odd quirks to Johnny Case (did you know Cary Grant could do various gymnastic flips while wearing a suit? Did you want to?), but for the most part he sparkles with Cary Grant wit, even when contemplating an opportunity most people will never get. Katharine Hepburn is always delightful, and she gets to play a more light-hearted character rather than a serious one in Holiday. None of the other performance can match the runaway train of those two, though. The movie comes alive when they’re together and slows to a halt when they’re apart, which is when the flaws of the movie come to light. The action is pretty static, with the vast majority of the action taking place in a few rooms of the mansion. A lot of the dialogue is heavy and stilted, particularly when being delivered by the less talented actors. Julia’s character “journey” is pretty unfair and unbelievable in order to deliver a clean ending. Also, don’t believe the packaging: there are no holidays in this movie. None. Just a lot of talk about taking about one.

Holiday on IMDb

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