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Being Mature Means Choosing Jack Black Over Jude Law in The Holiday

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Everett Collection

Most millennial women in my life have been on a very specific journey with Nancy Meyers’s 2006 seminal rom-com, The Holiday. The film follows two single women who swap homes over Christmas. Iris (Kate Winslet) travels to sunny Los Angeles, while Amanda (Cameron Diaz) retreats to a quaint English village. Both characters are fish out of water, and each meets a local lad (Jack Black as Miles and Jude Law as Graham) eager to help them acclimate. In our 20s, we preferred the Jude Law storyline, naturally.

The film is a soft-serve twist of lust and tenderness, and it’s pretty clear which plot Meyers intended to be sexy. Graham and Amanda meet and immediately begin banging, though her character’s evolution is otherwise superficial. She hasn’t cried since she was a child, she’s never been in love, and the root of this emotional constipation is that her parents got divorced. (So young to have suffered so much.) She ends up falling in love with Graham in the span of a week and crying about it. To be fair, if I saw Jude Law naked I’d trick myself into believing it’s love, too.

But while 20-something me fantasized about Amanda’s life — a snowy cottage in Surrey, Jude Law in glasses, a highly dramatic and logistically impossible romance — 30-something me would rather have Iris’s happy ending.

Poor relatable Iris has been driven mad by unrequited love and before Amanda messages her about the home swap, she is suicidally inhaling fumes from her stovetop while her dog watches. Iris survives (obviously), and must learn to like herself again after years of abject loneliness. New to L.A., Iris first meets her 90-year-old neighbor (not the love interest), then Miles enters the picture, and their tentative romance blooms into something much hotter than Amanda’s hurried affair.

Jack Black is a revelation. Is he your typical romantic lead like his co-stars? No. (Even he forgot he was in this movie altogether.) But he’s a plucky little daisy in a field of sunflowers. Miles is emotionally available and childless, while Graham is a recent widower who routinely gets hammered when his parents babysit his daughters. He seems to be in a bit of a grief spiral. What’s more, Graham is kind of dull, whereas Black’s face is so impish he barely has to say anything to make Iris giggle.

Both Miles and Iris have dated people who didn’t appreciate them, but more importantly, they have a shared project. Iris is training Arthur to move without his walker, and Miles is a film composer who pens a cheeky tune to put pep in Arthur’s step. He also uses it as an opportunity to write a piano melody inspired by Iris — “I used only the good notes,” he tells her with sensual eye contact. She’s shocked a man could be so kind. I’m shocked we don’t get a sex scene.

Miles and Iris’s relative chastity is a return to the tradition of ’30s and ’40s screwball comedies like The Lady Eve and Bringing Up Baby, movies Iris is watching on Arthur’s recommendation. Miles and Iris barely kiss; it’s about the build-up, the innuendo of what we don’t see happen onscreen.

Not to say they’re completely without heat. Seconds after they meet, the Santa Ana winds blow some junk into Iris’s eye and Miles offers to fish it out with his own fingers. An act so intimate, it begs comparison to the finger-sucking scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Black sometimes tries too hard to be sexy, compensating for being out of his element. (He doesn’t really need to croon the O’s in “chocolate-covered macaroons.”) But Miles is unafraid to look silly. A man who doesn’t care how cool he looks, who is vulnerable and sincere? That’s the stuff of an adult woman’s dreams! When Miles catches his girlfriend cheating on him, he runs out to confront her while holding a Frappuccino, the least dignified drink known to man. He doesn’t even think about putting it down.

Nancy Meyers said of casting Jack Black: “I’m aware he’s not Clark Gable, he’s not tall, dark, and handsome. But he’s adorable, he’s lovable. It’s my way of saying this is the right kind of guy, this is what most guys look like if they’re lucky.” Meyers spearheaded the charge of seeing Jack as a romantic lead; I am merely the latest to throw my hat in the ring. Play me all the good notes.

Grow Up: It’s Jack Black Over Jude Law in The Holiday