There are many things I like in this world but there are only a few things I truly love. One thing I deeply love and connect with is Kate Winslet's performance in The Holiday , which hits the tenth anniversary mark on Thursday. In the film, Winslet plays Iris, a bookish and warm-hearted Londoner who is trying to unstick herself from a man she is in deep, unrequited love with. To many viewers, Iris' storyline in The Holiday may seem a bit silly: she cannot seem to really kick her addiction to the affection her ex-boyfriend and current love interest, Jasper, who is engaged to another woman but seems to always rely on Iris for ego boosts, affection, and assistance with his work. Even worse, his actions are blatantly exploitative.
Iris, sweet as she is, is blinded by her aching desire for a shared love and a need for companionship; as a woman who has been in this situation more than once in her life, I relate to her painful situation all too well. As such, watching Iris go through the process of feeling her pain and then casting it off after finding herself and becoming an empowered individual makes every repeat viewing of The Holiday such a cathartic experience.
After spending the first hour of The Holiday watching Iris bear the slings and arrows of publicly learning about Jasper's engagement, crying it out alone in her home, and then dodging simpering e-mails when she thought she'd finally escaped his sphere of influence, you'd be inclined to shout "Get over it already!" at your screen. But it's her transition from a woman resigned to living with the pain of rejection to a woman who realizes that the man who kept her on the hook for so long is not worthy of her time or affection that is so enthralling.
There are two defining moments during Iris' holiday in Los Angeles that complete the arc in her transformation. The first is during her dinner with aging screenwriter Arthur. At one point, he asks why Iris would spend her holiday so far from home. Iris attempts to evade the truth, mentioning that she wanted to get away from the people she sees every day but, after a moment, she breaks down.
Iris: Well, not all the people. One person. I wanted to get away from one guy, an ex-boyfriend who just got engaged and forgot to tell me. [She tears up] I'm sorry.
Arthur: So he's a schmuck!
Iris: As a matter of fact, he is a huge schmuck. How did you know?
Arthur: He let you go. This is not a hard one to figure out.
After this moment, Arthur gives her the single most solid piece of advice about the difference between being a leading lady in your own life and acting like the best friend. By telling Iris she so very clearly deserves to be the leading lady in her own story, Arthur emboldens Iris to see that she doesn't deserve this kind of treatment, that she is deserves to really be seen, pursued, and loved by a worthy man. When it comes time to finally give Jasper the boot, she draws from this well of strength.
At this point in The Holiday, I often begin to think about my own romantic exploits. I've had crushes on boys my whole life. I've fallen for men who didn't share a lick of affection for me. I've tried to hint subtly (oftentimes it wasn't so subtle, though) at my affections towards the boy I've believed could really like me back. Expectation has rarely ever met reality in these situations. This is not said to incur a sympathetic ear. I say it only to highlight that Iris' journey in The Holiday is so very real and so very relatable. It took me a long time to understand and accept what Iris is similarly understanding and accepting in this film. The kind of love we, the women who so often undersell themselves to men who use us for their own selfish needs or barely requite our crushing affections, deserve is often so rarely found in men who keep us on the hook. Those men who see where our hearts lie and exploit it are often not the same men who are the men who know how to be proper partners, boyfriends, or husbands.
Watching Iris make this realization when Jasper shows up in Los Angeles unannounced and attempts to reel her back in is pure catharsis personified. Kate Winslet delivers Iris' blows to Jasper's inflated, narcissistic ego so perfectly that it left me cheering for her — and myself, surprisingly — by the time she finished. She says:
Jasper, you have never treated me right, ever. You broke my heart. You acted like somehow it was my fault, my misunderstanding and I was too in love with you to ever be mad at you, so I punished myself. For years! But you waltzing in her on my lovely Christmas holiday and telling me that you don't want to lose me while you're still about to get married somehow newly entitles me to say: It's over. This twisted, toxic thing between us, it's finally finished. I'm miraculously done being in love with you.
This is a moment of victory I've tried to replicate in my own life. I know how difficult and soul-crushing it can be to live with the feeling that because the person you're in love with doesn't love you back that directly relates to how unworthy you are in other areas of your life. Iris' realization that her relationship with Jasper is nothing but toxic and then have the gumption, in her words, to forcefully tell him so drives this notion home. It's simply a perfect moment, a full-circle from where she began.
In the end, Iris taught me that the love you put out is just as equal as what you take in; even more than that, the ability to allow yourself to accept real love instead of staying hooked on an off-brand version of the stuff is paramount to your own well-being. Iris' journey is so meaningful. Her emotional arc is so relatable and necessary. For this reason, the character of Iris and the way Kate Winslet brought her to life will forever be one of the best things about The Holiday.
Images: The Holiday/Youtube; Giphy (4)