“I like corny!” coos Kate Winslet’s English rose when asked to describe her ideal film. That’s handy, because she’s up to her neck in it in this shamelessly soppy rom-com from Something’s Gotta Give director Nancy Meyers. Resembling little more than Bridget Jones’s Diary in duplicate, her tale of house-swapping singletons finding love on opposite sides of the Atlantic doesn’t so much unfold as clamp itself to viewers’ lower legs like an overly affectionate puppy. As gruesomely sentimental as it is, though, this polished film is not without a glossy allure that enables it to transcend its Four Weddings clichés.
Mike Newell’s 1994 behemoth certainly dominates the Blighty half of the narrative, which sees Cameron Diaz’s frosty LA shrew thawed by a veritable deluge of village pubs and snow-covered rural lanes. Not that Diaz takes long to succumb: indeed, no sooner has she turned down the sheets at Winslet’s implausibly named Rosehill Cottage (just 40 minutes from London, we are told – as if!) then she and Jude Law are doing the nasty, a record perhaps even by his ladykilling standards. Quite what he sees in a girl who’ll drop her knickers at the first sight of a slightly inebriated Brit is anybody’s guess. But at least it allows us to ignore their subsequent travails – he’s got kids, she’s got issues – and focus on Kate’s altogether more appealing exploits on the other side of the pond.
Oscillating between Iris’ unrequited pash for love-rat Rufus Sewell and her unlikely friendship with the geriatric screenwriter next door (Eli Wallach), this half of the pic also suffers from a severe case of the cutes. Its saving grace, however, is Jack Black’s uncommonly restrained turn as Kate’s new beau, the Tenacious D star toning down his usual hysterics to charming, winning and surprisingly touching effect. Watch out, too, for a big-name cameo and a mock promo for a Lindsay Lohan-James Franco actioner that, if made, could well be the highlight of their careers.
Mushy? Yes. Formulaic? Absolutely. But this good-looking time-waster offers irrefutable proof that Nancy Meyers knows What Women Want.