Miss Byrd's Wonderful Life
Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah - Taxi) is a good soul; she sings in the church choir, never argues, never swears and cooks meals for her neighbours whilst sticking to eating lean cuisine. So when a doctor tells her she has just 3 weeks to live she decides to make the most of every minute and do all the things she dreamt about, including heading to Europe to stay at a swanky hotel where her idol Chef Didier (GÃ©rard Depardieu - 102 Dalmatians) works. But having cashed in her savings and bonds people mistake her for someone of wealth and business man, Matthew Kragen (Heavens Fall), fears that she maybe a corporate spy sent to uncover his duplicitous actions as he wines and dines politicians. But it doesn't take long for Georgia's good soul to win over those who wonder who she is, well everyone except Kragen who still fears that she may be trying to bring him down.
Frank Capra directed some of cinema's best inspirational comedies and it is testament to his skill that even now his influence can be found in modern movies. Take "Last Holiday"; here we have a very Capra-esque story where we have a woman who has spent her life doing the right thing only to learn she has three weeks to live. Whilst attempting to enjoy those last 3 weeks she gets mistaken for someone else, inadvertently helps a group of people and less than surprisingly we have a happy ever after ending. But the thing which really makes "Last Holiday" Capra-esque is because the woman is likeable, she is a good soul and we grow fond of her due to the way she treats and helps others. Basically for a modern comedy "Lost Holiday" has charm and it is the charm which makes it work.
Now being a comedy about a likeable woman who helps others it has to be said that there is an obvious nature about "Lost Holiday", okay it actually telegraphs a lot of what is going to happen. As such I have to be honest and say that this isn't the sort of movie you watch wondering where it is going but you just sit back and enjoy the mix of light hearted fun and charm with a certain amount of faith that a happy ending is on the cards. As such whilst there is this confusion comedy of Georgia being mistaken for someone who is rich it is only ever routine at best and as I said relies more on the charm of this good woman and how she treats others than being a riot of laughs.
Now a big reason why "Last Holiday" works is because of Queen Latifah delivering a charmingly sweet and fun performance, giving us a character that we can warm to instantly. But Latifah is not the only good performance as Timothy Hutton puts a nice spin on the shallow and evil Matthew Kragen whilst LL Cool J delivers restraint as Sean, the object of Georgia's secret affection, toning the character down in a manner which means he never distracts from this being all about Georgia.
What this all boils down to is that "Last Holiday" is not a great movie but it is a charming one with plenty of fun as well as a message, a very Capra-esque style movie. But the reason why it works is thanks to Queen Latifah who delivers one charming character in Georgia Byrd, someone we instantly warm to and enjoy watching as her good soul radiates out.