"Nancy Meyers" isn't a real person. "Nancy Meyers" is a robot invented by the studios as a cost-cutting measure to produce the most synthetic romantic comedies imaginable. Here's proof: In her latest creation, The Holiday, Meyers-bot invents the character of an aging Golden Age Hollywood screenwriter who has a chance encounter with one of the film's heroines, which he describes as a "meet-cute." (Her subsequent line, "I enjoyed my meet-cute," is just one of many skin-crawling moments.) Later, when she reveals her romantic woes over dinner, he talks about her being "the best-friend character" when she's really leading-lady material. Does anyone talk about their lives as if they were merely components in a generic rom-com screenplay? Of course not. The only explanation is a technical glitch: Meyers' programming matrix accidentally found its way into the dialogue.


After years of glossy commercial swill—most of which she made with her ex-husband Charles Shyer (including the Father Of The Bride remakes and I Love Trouble), until she branched out on her own by directing What Women Want—Meyers entered the realm of semi-respectability with the overrated Something's Gotta Give, which was redeemed by Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton's soulful performances. This time, a first-rate cast can't breathe life into the lifeless. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz star as single women from opposite sides of the pond who escape their romantic woes through a holiday home exchange: London journalist Winslet agrees to give up her cozy cottage in the English countryside in exchange for Diaz's ultra-modern Beverly Hills residence. After having their hearts broken by handsome scoundrels, both finally meet men who are worthy of them: Diaz in the form of Winslet's brother Jude Law, and Winslet in the form of film-score composer Jack Black.

The Holiday is loaded with excruciating moments: Winslet screaming and flailing around like a child as she rounds the corner of every room in Diaz's house, Black "ski-dooing" famous movie scores at a video store, and perhaps worst of all, a Writer's Guild speech in which the old screenwriter decries what Hollywood has become. (Amen, brother.) But the film's biggest problem is that Meyers would rather her characters be cute than real, so a plot point like Diaz's inability to cry leads to scenes of her scrunching her face adorably in an effort to squeeze a tear out. Even with a wild card like Black desperately retooling his lines, there's nothing authentic or personal about The Holiday—it's as chilling as heart-warmers get.