Holiday (1938) – Ace Mini-Review

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Doris Nolan
Written by: Donald Ogden Stewart, Sidney Buchman
Play by: Philip Barry
Directed by: George Cukor
U.S.A., 1938

How good is this movie?

One of my favourite romantic movies starring my favourite romantic screen duo! This film works on many levels, most of which have aged remarkably well: as a spoof of the upper classes, as a critique of the American Dream, as an interrogation of normative adulthood, as a romantic love story. Even the brief political discussions feel (sadly) familiar. The one false note is the tacked-on final scene, which is not in the original play. But, apart from that, the film is uniformly loveable.

How ace is this movie?

Romantic relationships are important to most of the characters, from the Linda-Johnny-Julia love triangle to Nick and Susan’s marriage. The one person who shows no signs of romantic interest is Ned, but given the mores of the time I’m inclined to read him as closeted gay. Still, platonic bonds are also very important, from Linda’s protective big-sistering of Ned and Julia, to Nick and Susan’s surrogate parenting of John, to the formation of the “Club”. And, rather than giving way to the romances, the platonic bonds facilitate and arbitrate them. The film also deserves credit for containing one of the most demisexual love stories in all of cinema. John and Linda emphatically do not fall in love at first sight. They have great chemistry from the beginning, but they have to spend time getting to know each other, becoming friends, and sharing good and bad experiences before that chemistry turns into sexual attraction. In contrast, John and Julia’s romance is derided for its suddenness and superficiality. It is also clear that for Linda, romantic desire does not trump platonic love or basic decency. Despite her desire for John, she refuses to jeopardise Julia’s happiness by attempting to seduce her fiancé. I also love Ned’s toast to his mother, in which he implicitly condemns patriarchy and the heteronormativity that supports it.

3.5 Stars; 3 Aces

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