When Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah), a lonely, able, but shy sales clerk at the Kragen department store, is diagnosed with a fatal brain disease, she goes on an extravagant vacation to Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, to indulge her love of cuisine by the side of the famous Chef, Didier (Gerard Depardieu). On arrival she finds that Kragen (Timothy Hutton) himself is also at the exclusive hotel with mistress in tow (Alicia Witt), trying to manipulate a deal with the help of Senator Dillings (Giancarlo Esposito). Her store colleague - and aspiring romantic partner - Sean Matthews (LL Cool J) sets off after her, and by the time he gets through the snow to the famous mountain resort, Georgia - behaving like there is no tomorrow - has charmed everyone, from her female hotel butler Ms Gunther (Susan Kellermann) to Didier - except the sleazy Kragen. But a fax message changes everything.
Review by Louise Keller:
'You wait and you wait for something big to happen, and then you find out you're going to die,' wails Georgia (Queen Latifah), when a simple bump on the head leads to a life-changing diagnosis. Instead of reaching for her dreams, she has been documenting them in her 'Book of Possibilities', and the closest she has been able to establish a relationship with her dashing co-worker Sean (LL Cool J), is with the help of PhotoShop. Loosely based on the 1950 Alec Guinness film, Last Holiday is a bright snappy romantic comedy that soars with its uplifting theme of living for the moment.
The script is nicely put together and largely due to the magnetism of charismatic Queen Latifah, we happily jump into the plane with her Georgia to the breathtakingly beautiful snow-covered Karlovy Vary. From frumpy to fabulous, Georgia indulges in all the therapies known to woman. Starting with a Pretty Woman shopping spree and progressing to cucumber eye-masks, extreme sports and the spin of fate at the five star Grandhotel Pupp's roulette wheel, we know that while money may not buy happiness, it certainly does open the door. In the hands of director Wayne Wang (Maid in Manhattan), the film balances fantasy with reality in an enticing mix.
Latifah has fun with it all as Georgia lets her hair down - literally. Can't decide what to choose on the menu? Why not try everything? Especially when Gerard Depardieu is in the kitchen, playing the hotel's renowned chef (Depardieu's talents in the kitchen are well known). The characters are wonderfully diverse - from Fraulein Gunter's tight-lipped valet (Susan Kellermann) to Timothy Hutton's materialistic Matthew Kragen and his assistant/mistress (Alicia Witt). I especially like the fact that there are no winners and losers. Everyone's a winner and the path to redemption has never been paved with so many happy moments.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you can imagine a wish fulfilment fantasy dressed up with a shopping spree, a gorgeous mountain resort in Europe, a world class chef creating new menus every day, champagne, exotic massage and health spa, snow capped scenery and linen to die for (sorry), Georgia's last fling before her diagnosis comes true is indeed living it up because she can't take it with her. And we go along happily, as she cashes in all her savings, including some bonds she has inherited, to splurge it all - on herself. Never mind the bad example she is setting for all the young women who should be wanting world peace (and donating their money to worthy causes), Georgia is showing us how to escape in style.
Queen Latifah is fine form as first the forlorn and then the fiery Georgia from New Orleans, who discovers her hidden persona with the help of an expensive winter wardrobe. She chides herself in the mirror that "next time" (she assumes she will shortly be dead, but seems sure she'll be back) she should live life more fully, less afraid. Good advice, so take this as the film's primary lesson.
Lesson over, and on with the fun, as the kooky characters of Karlovy Vary's famopus and fabulous Grandhotel mingle with the big players from the West. Susan Kellermann steals the scenes that Depardieu is not in, and LL Cool J makes a likeable bloke after Georgia's lonely heart. Timothy Hutton plays the corporate swine with steely charm, and the whole affair is a pleasant interlude without jumping out of the rut of the genre, as Hollywood wants it.
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LAST HOLIDAY (PG)
CAST: Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Gerard Depardieu, Timothy Hutton, Giancarlo Esposito, Alicia Witt, Jane Adams
PRODUCER: Laurence Mark, Jack Rapke
DIRECTOR: Wayne Wang
SCRIPT: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Geoffrey Simpson
EDITOR: Deidre Slevin
MUSIC: George Fenton
PRODUCTION DESIGN: William Arnold
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 25, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
VIDEO RELEASE: November 2, 2006
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