The Holiday before The Holiday
So there I am scouring the TV guide for something to watch and I spot this movie "Tara Road" and immediately it grabbed my attention. Prior to this I had never heard of "Tara Road" but the write up which said it was about two women who swap houses on either side of the Atlantic immediately made me think that it must be a rip off, a sort of remake to Nancy Meyers hugely popular "The Holiday". But here's the thing "Tara Road" isn't a remake of "The Holiday", in fact "Tara Road" is an adaptation of a Maeve Binchy novel and was made before "The Holiday". But the similarities, the characters, even the twists are all so similar to Nancy Meyers "The Holiday" or should that be Nancy Meyers "The Holiday" is all so similar to "Tara Road".
4 months after her son died in a motor bike accident, American Marilyn (Andie MacDowell - Michael) is still struggling to come to terms with her loss. On the other side of the Atlantic Irish woman Ria's (Olivia Williams - The Sixth Sense) life comes crashing down when her other half admits to having another woman. Through a chance phone call they decide to swap homes for a couple of months and whilst Marilyn heads to Dublin for some peace and quiet, Ria heads off to Connecticut for exactly the same reason. But with their friends trying to help each other out, peace and quiet is the last thing each other gets.
So "Tara Road" came before "The Holiday" and already mentioned the similarities are quite striking yet there are some differences. On one hand, the American side, we have Marilyn who 4 months after her teenage son died in a bike accident is still struggling to come to terms with it and on the other, the Irish side, you have Ria and a cheating other half who leaves her distraught. What follows is the spur of the moment decision to swap houses for a couple of months so that each can have the solitude to solve their emotional issues.
Which all sounds well and good, but the trouble is that "Tara Road" isn't really sure what it wants to be. One moment it's serious, delving into the dramatic side of the storyline yet the next it's trying to be funny either by playing on the quirkiness of the Irish or the over top ness of Americans. It's a blend which doesn't work making "Tara Road" struggle for an identity. It also has a knock on effect of making a few tender semi-romantic moments fly by with out any impact.
And the annoying thing is that the actual storyline to "Tara Road" is pretty good, it's well developed with a few surprises and twists making it a movie which should make you concentrate and focus on what is happening. Yet because director Gillies MacKinnon feels lead to play up the comedy side of a few scenes it distracts from the cleverly written story, a story which I am sure is much better in Maeve Binchy's novel "Tara Road".
This struggle for identity also ends up spoiling the performances because one moment you have Olivia Williams as Ria heading to America to sort out her broken heart, distraught at her cheating other half, but then thanks to the quirky characters and moments of comedy ends up making it an unfocussed character. The same can be said of Andie MacDowell as Marilyn who heads over to Ireland. Both their performances are solid, not spectacular but solid; it's just that they don't work because of the flitting between comedy and drama.
The best performance comes from Stephen Rea in the supporting role of Colm, a small part but wonderfully acted by the talented Rea. In fact it's a performance which stands out in a movie where a lot of the actors struggle with the mixed focus.
Of course what doesn't help is that when "Tara Road" was released back in 2005 it didn't get a big cinema release and so when the following year "The Holiday" came out with it's big stars it's no wonder that "The Holiday" is the more famous of the two. Although despite making comparisons is easy due to the similarities it's also a little unfair as "The Holiday" was written by Nancy Meyers and not in any way a remake or re-working of Maeve Binchy's novel.
What this all boils down to is that "Tara Road" is an entertaining movie but suffers from not knowing whether it wants to be serious and dramatic or quirky and funny. It almost gives it a split personality and as such the wonderful storyline ends up feeling diluted by various moments of quirky characters and almost light hearted comedy.