Holiday Affair

1996, Movie, NR, 93 mins

Review

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HOLIDAY AFFAIR, a 1996 made-for-cable movie (released on video in 1997), is an ultra-bland and innocuous remake of the 1949 Robert Mitchum-Janet Leigh movie about the romantic travails of a widowed mom.

Jodie Ennis (Cynthia Gibb), a young widow with a six-year-old son named Timmy (Curtis Blanck), is dating a kind but boring lawyer named Paul (Tom Irwin), whom she is seeing for the sake of security. However, after she meets a handsome department store clerk named Steve (David James Elliott) and inadvertently gets him fired from his job, the two become friends and start to fall for each other. But when Steve tells her that he's planning to move to Virginia on New Year's Eve, she calls Paul and accepts his recent marriage proposal. On Christmas, Steve gives Timmy a toy train, but Jodie tells him that she's going to marry Paul.

Later, Jodie's Christmas dinner for Paul, Timmy, and her in-laws is interrupted by a cop who tells her that Steve has been arrested. She goes down to the station and gets him out after clearing up a case of mistaken identity. Steve joins them all for dinner, but Jodie asks him to leave after he embarrasses her by declaring his love for her in front of the others. Timmy returns the toy train to the store in order to pay back the destitute Steve, but when Jodie and Paul go to see Steve to give him the money, Paul realizes she's in love with Steve and calls off the wedding. Still, Jodie is too afraid to commit to anything and says good-bye to Steve. On New Year's Eve, she suddenly decides that she can't live without Steve and runs to meet him on the train as it's pulling out of the station at midnight.

The original HOLIDAY AFFAIR is far from a classic, but it has an interesting kind of post-WWII sentimental/cynical ambiance, as well as charming performances by the cast-against-type Robert Mitchum as the philosophical Steve, and a very young Janet Leigh in the then-topical role of a war widow. It also accented the light comedy elements of the story, unlike the new version, which is slow, heavy, and sentimental in the extreme. The direction is listless and arid, the performances are tired, and the script has barely been updated. While the original has an evocative and amusing depiction of the hustle-and-bustle of Manhattan during the holidays, the atmosphere here has the usual faux-New York "Filmed in Toronto" generic feel to it (as if the Canadian-content casting of the ubiquitous Al Waxman didn't give it away). There is also little doubt as to which of the two suitors Jodie will finally choose, since Tom is a paunchy lawyer, and Steve is a devil-may-care stud who has dropped out of the rat race (he's a former stockbroker) and wants to move to Virginia to convert barns(!). In the original, the outcome was also never in doubt, but at least Mitchum's character--a returning WWII veteran looking for some meaning in life--was a little fresher at the time, and the romance had a genuine poignancy to it, whereas now the story line is treated like just another soap-opera fantasy. leave a comment

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