***1/2 (out of 5)
January 13, 2006
Queen Latifah as GEORGIA BYRD
LL Cool J as SEAN MATTHEWS
Timothy Hutton as MATTHEW DRAGEN
Giancarlo Esposito as SENATOR DILLINGS
Alicia Witt as MS. BURNS
Gerard Depardieu as CHEF DIDIER
Directed by: Wayne Wang
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
A couple years ago when Queen Latifah was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in “Chicago,” I’m sure it ruffled a few feathers. After all, she’s not exactly Meryl Streep. But I felt it was well deserved, and she continues to show promise as an actor in almost every project she’s in.
Yes, “Last Holiday” is just a basic, run-of-the-mill light comedy that comes out after all the other movies are released to vie for awards. Yes, it’s entirely predictable. Yes, the characters are cut right out of a template. But that doesn’t stop it from having a lot of charm.
And what’s wrong with run-of-the-mill anyway – especially if it’s done well.
“Last Holiday” tells the story of Georgia Burns (Latifah), a working stiff who receives the horrible news that she only has three weeks to live. After taking a little time to grieve, she decides to make the most out of whatever life she has left. So, she cashes in her pension and 401k and sets off to the Czech Republic to blow it all on the vacation of a lifetime.
Whether or not you’ve seen the trailers for this film, where the film goes from here shouldn’t be a surprise. She learns to live, ironically when her life is over. She charms the pants off the other socialites (and the staff as well) at the hotel where she’s staying. It’s got every standard cliche “live life to the fullest” message ever found. But it’s still a really sweet movie.
The main reason for the charm of “Last Holiday” is Latifah herself. Back when she was doing rap and urban films like “Set It Off,” I doubt anyone foresaw her to become a bankable star that could carry a movie by herself. But she manages to do it. Not only does she nail the slapstick humor and goofball comedy, but she turns in some mighty fine dramatic scenes as well.
Queen Latifah has a lot of class and a lot of sass, and that’s a perfect combination for a film like this. I just couldn’t help falling for her in this film. Keep your eyes on this girl because she’s going to be a name to be reckoned with in film in the coming years. Move over Julia Roberts… there’s a new Queen in town.
Another reason this film works is that it taps into a secret fantasy we all have – to throw caution to the wind and live extravagantly. Who wouldn’t like to stay in a $5000-a-night hotel room? Who wouldn’t want to order everything on the menu – and eat it all? Who wouldn’t want to go base jumping before they die? (Well, strike that last one. We can’t all be daredevils.)
But in the midst of all this hoopla, there’s a lot of heart in the story. Although it’s directed by Wayne Wang, the film has a real Garry Marshall feel to it. The cast seemed to have fun – at least the characters did. And there’s enough going on without the focus on the stars that it keeps things interesting.
There are also some great supporting performances. Gerard Depardieu is hilarious as the French chef smitten with Georgia. LL Cool J turns in a solid love interest as her flame back home. And Susan Kellerman is hysterical as the sour-faced hotel valet.
“Last Holiday” isn’t going to win any awards, and chances are you’ll completely forget about it by March. But it is a really warm-hearted film and will make a great date movie.