Last Holiday is one of those perfect fantasy movies that somehow works in spite of itself. You might see the requisite “wacky panic” face on the faces of star Queen Latifah and costar Timothy Hutton in the preview, but those kind of painfully contrived moments are few and far between. Unfortunately, many of the involve Hutton, a half-hearted “bad guy” for the film’s purposes. However, for those of us who understand the hoarding nature of fear, the “someday I will get my dream” passivity that covers you like a snowbank when you have no confidence, Last Holiday is a refreshing glass of water.
The preview gives it away; Latifah’s character is meek, frumpy, shy, and has a lot of dreams…until she finds out she is going to die in three weeks. Fortunately, her careful nature has provided her with the means to cram as many of her dreams into her final days as possible. This lady knows how to dream and do it right. She is immediately uninhbited in her enjoyment of life, herself, beauty, food, everything, and of course the result is she becomes irresistible to everyone else (you know, those of us who are still ruled by fear).
Some of it feels pat, even wince-inducingly so, but some of it feels just like 2000 count sheets and an admiring hug from your idol. It is interesting to see a glamour-guss like Queen Latifah cram her dynamic nature down into a dowdy spinster shopgirl type, and almost “well finally!” to see her live large. Of course, that is what we should be thinking. No one should swallow their own soul like she does, but least of which a gorgeous diva like the Queen. And how cute that her character has a big ol’ crazy crush on LL Cool J?
The characters that support her through her butterfly-like transformation are new, interesting faces (or at least obscure ones) and they are all little cinematic feasts. The movie loves food, so don’t go in hungry, but the characters are equally gourmet. Gerard Depardieu is Chef Didier, her idol, and he crackles with fun like we haven’t seen from him since…well, a really long time.
It is handy that her resources are seemingly unlimited – we get to sit back and enjoy the fantasies of many a low-wage worker trolling the world of the super-rich, and it’s fantastic escapism. The greater escapism is watching the delicious liberation of her personality, her fearlessness and joy and really, just her positive attitude, considering the true downer that is the premise of the movie. Despite how it may seem, it really is a feel good movie in the best sense, even when occasionally it trips over its own skis.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 1/13/05
Time in minutes 112
Director Wayne Wang
Studio Paramount Pictures