Last Holiday (2006 film)
|Directed by||Wayne Wang|
|Written by||Jeffrey Price|
Peter S. Seaman
|Edited by||Deirdre Slevin|
|Music by||George Fenton|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$43.3 million|
Last Holiday is a 2006 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Wayne Wang and written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. The film is loosely based on the 1950 British film of the same name by J. B. Priestley. The film stars Queen Latifah as Georgia, a humble department store assistant who is told that she has a rare brain condition and only has a few weeks to live. She promptly decides to spend her remaining funds on a luxury holiday in Europe before she dies.
Price and Seaman wanted John Candy for the main role but, after Candy's death, Latifah's agent suggested a new version starring her. Produced by Robert Zemeckis' ImageMovers, the film was released by Paramount Pictures on January 13, 2006. The film was a box-office bomb, having grossed $43.3 million against a budget of $45 million and received mixed reviews from critics, though Latifah's performance was universally praised for her charm and humor.
The film begins during the Christmas holiday season with Georgia Byrd, an employee in the cookware department at Kragen's Department Store in New Orleans. Georgia is a shy, unassuming woman who longs to cook professionally, and who records her dreams of a better life in a scrapbook labeled "Possibilities". While flirting with a co-worker named Sean Williams, Georgia bumps her head on a kitchen cabinet door and is taken to the store's health center for a CAT scan. There, she is told by company physician Dr. Gupta that she has several brain tumors resulting from a rare neurological disorder called Lampington's disease. Since her HMO plan will not cover the exorbitant cost of an operation, Georgia resigns herself to the fact she has only a few weeks to live, quits her job, liquidates her assets and sets off on a dream vacation at the deluxe Grandhotel Pupp in the spa city of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic.
Free of inhibitions and determined to live life to the fullest, Georgia checks into the Presidential Suite, buys a designer wardrobe in expensive boutiques, makes extensive use of the hotel's spa facilities, attempts snowboarding and BASE jumping off a dam, enjoys succulent meals prepared by world-renowned Chef Didier, and wins a small fortune playing roulette in the casino.
Georgia impresses the hotel's staff, with the exception of cantankerous guest services manager Miss Gunther, with her naive manner and forthright kindness, and mingles with some of the other guests, including Matthew Kragen, a self-help guru and coincidentally the owner of the store where she worked; his assistant/mistress Ms. Allison Burns; pandering Senator Dillings from her home state of Louisiana; and prominent Congressman Stewart. Kragen is skeptical about Georgia's origins and suspects her of trying to sabotage his business, but the rest are charmed by her free spirit.
When Kragen bribes Miss Gunther to dig up information about Georgia's background, she goes through her hotel suite and finds a letter Georgia has written providing instructions for the disposal of her remains after her death. Miss Gunther is moved by the letter and realizes Georgia's self-confidence and sunny optimism have touched everyone who has met her since her arrival. She confesses to Georgia she snooped through her belongings and found the letter and urges her to return home and spend her last days with those she loves. Georgia takes Miss Gunther's advice and heads for the airport, only to discover an avalanche has blocked the road. Unbeknownst to her, Sean—having learned of Georgia's diagnosis and ready to acknowledge his feelings for her—is in a taxi on the other side of the snowdrift, trying to reach her at the hotel.
Georgia returns to the hotel, and Sean leaves his taxi behind and begins to hike across the snow on foot. At a New Year's Eve party that evening, Kragen exposes Georgia as a low-level saleswoman in one of his stores. Georgia tells them that Kragen is right and reveals that she is going to die. Kragen's colleagues, disgusted by his insensitivity, embrace her and abandon him. Allison Burns leaves him, saying that she will return to school, and get her business degree; adding that she will be all too happy to help Kragen's wife divorce him and figure out exactly how much half of his fortune will be. Dejected and embarrassed, Kragen goes to an upper floor of the hotel and sits on the ledge, contemplating ending his life. Georgia tries to persuade him to come down, suggesting if he were nicer and less driven and greedy, he would be a happier person.
Sean arrives at the hotel just in time and joins Georgia and Kragen on the ledge. In the lobby, Miss Gunther finds a fax from Dr. Gupta, in which he tells Georgia she was misdiagnosed due to X-rays generated by a broken, outdated CAT scanner. Miss Gunther rushes up to the ledge to announce the good news. Georgia and Sean return to New Orleans where they open a restaurant, which is visited by Chef Didier and Georgia's long-time inspiration: Emeril Lagasse.
An epilogue sequence shows that Georgia changed her Book of Possibilities into the Book of Realities, and her friends all lived better lives: Ms. Allison Burns went to business school and opened a spa, Ms. Gunther opened a detective agency, and Dr. Gupta and Matthew Kragen joined a spiritual retreat after Gupta quit his job and Kragen's ex-wife won a large settlement in their divorce leaving him broke. And that Georgia and Sean got married while skydiving.
- Queen Latifah as Georgia Byrd
- LL Cool J as Sean Williams
- Timothy Hutton as Matthew Kragen
- Giancarlo Esposito as Senator Dillings
- Alicia Witt as Ms. Allison Burns
- Gérard Depardieu as Chef Didier
- Jane Adams as Rochelle
- Susan Kellermann as Ms. Gunther
- Ranjit Chowdhry as Dr. Gupta
- Michael Nouri as Congressman Stewart
- Jascha Washington as Darius
- Matt Ross as Mr. Adamian
- Emeril Lagasse as Himself
- Smokey Robinson as Himself
In the original 1950 film, the leading character of George Bird was played by Alec Guinness. Screenwriters Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman (of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Doc Hollywood fame) updated the story for John Candy, with Carl Reiner directing, but the project was shelved after the actor's death in 1994. Years later, Queen Latifah's agent read their script and suggested they revise it for her.
The gourmet cuisine seen throughout the film was prepared by chefs from the Food Network, and recipes for many of the dishes, including Lobster Salad in Potato Leek Nests, Duck Hash on Toasted Baguette, Spiced Lamb Shanks with Blood Orange Relish, Roasted Quail with Brioche and Chorizo Stuffing, Risotto Barolo with Roasted Vegetables, Bananas Foster and Poulet Tchoupitoulas, were available on the network's website. In one scene, Georgia watches footage from Emeril Live to help her prepare a chicken. As part of the film's promotion, Queen Latifah appeared as a guest on Lagasse's show.
The film opened on 2,514 screens in the US, earning $12,806,188 and ranking number two in its opening weekend. It eventually grossed $38,399,961 in the US and $4,943,287 in foreign markets for a worldwide box office total of $43,343,248.
Queen Latifah was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture.
The aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 56% based on 120 reviews, and an average rating of 5.78/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Although Queen Latifah's bountiful life-affirming spirit permeates the film, director Wayne Wang is unable to revive this remake with any real flair." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said the film "takes advantage of the great good nature and warmth of Queen Latifah, and uses it to transform a creaky old formula into a comedy that is just plain lovable. To describe the plot is to miss the point, because this plot could have been made into countless movies not as funny and charming as this one ... All depends on the Queen, who has been known to go over the top on occasion, but in this film finds all the right notes and dances to them delightfully. It is good to attend to important cinema like Syriana and Munich, but on occasion we must be open to movies that have more modest ambitions: They only want to amuse us, warm us, and make us feel good. Last Holiday plays like a hug."
Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle stated, "Latifah's latest vehicle inexorably marches toward an ending you can see coming from the first reel ... This harmless bit of fluff lacks the element of surprise but is not without random charming moments supplied by its incandescent star."
Jessica Reaves of the Chicago Tribune awarded the film three out of four stars and described Queen Latifah as "soft, bold and very funny, infusing this otherwise predictable movie with a contagious charm." She added, "While this is not exactly a profound film, and the message is hardly new, it's testament to this movie's joyous energy that it doesn't matter in the least. We may know exactly where we're going, but the journey is so much fun, all but the most peevish audience members will find it impossible to complain."
Janet K. Keeler of the St. Petersburg Times graded the film B- and commented, "Strong performances by Latifah, LL Cool J and Depardieu, who is strangely but perfectly cast, save Last Holiday from irrelevance. Latifah is more than the funny girl with attitude we've seen in Bringing Down the House, Taxi and Beauty Shop. She's got the goods to play the leading lady, and a sexy one at that. Latifah's performance here isn't as good as her Oscar-nominated turn in Chicago, but it shows off more range and a subtler touch than subsequent movies."
- "Last Holiday". BoxOfficeMojo. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
- Siskel, Gene (March 30, 1986). "Sour Movies Keep Candy Just Short Of Sweet Success". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
- Last Holiday (2006), retrieved 2020-10-06
- Ebert, Roger (January 13, 2006). "Last Holiday". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
- Stein, Ruthe (January 13, 2006). "Deadly diagnosis leads to fatally predictable story". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
- Reeves, Jessica (January 13, 2006). "Movie review: Last Holiday". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
- Keeler, Janet (January 12, 2006). "Saving the best for last". St. Petersburg Times. Archived from the original on August 6, 2007. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
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