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Last Holiday (2006)
Last Holiday is a 2006 American comedy film directed by Wayne Wang and starring Queen Latifah. The screenplay by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman is an updated, gender-reversed adaptation of the 1950 film of the same name written by J. B. Priestley. Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah), an employee in the cookware department at Kragen's Department Store in New Orleans, is a shy, unassuming woman who longs to cook professionally, and who records her dreams of a better life in a journal labeled "Possibilities." It is the Christmas holiday season. While flirting with a co-worker Sean Williams (LL Cool J), she bumps her head on a cabinet door and is taken to the store's health center for a CAT scan. There she is told by company physician Dr. Gupta (Ranjit Chowdhry) she has several brain tumors resulting from a rare neurological disorder called Lampington's Disease. Since her HMO plan will not cover the exorbitant cost of an operation, Georgia resigns herself to the fact she has only a few weeks to live, quits her job, liquidates her assets, and sets off on a dream vacation at the deluxe Grandhotel Pupp in the spa city of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic.
Wayne Wang's Last Holiday might be the first film to allow both bright spots to shine in support of a good feature. Essentially a remake of a 1950s Alec Guinness comedy, Holiday casts Latifah as Georgia Bird, a kind-hearted department store sales clerk who is too shy to ask out her dream man, Sean (Cool J), and too timid to pursue her dream career as a chef. After receiving a brutal bump on the head at work, Georgia is diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer and told she has three weeks to live. This shocking truth jolts the homebody out of her mundane existence. She drains her bank account, books a flight to Prague, and proceeds to splurge on life's finer points before her time runs out.
Holiday belongs with those formulaic comedies that bug critics as they please crowds. Minor inaccuracies could have been eliminated by a quick script polish - Georgia upgrades her lowly coach-level plane ticket for a first-class seat in mid-flight! - and the movie tests the limits of credibility as it manufactures conflict for Georgia once she arrives in Prague.
Coincidentally, Louisiana's congressman (Michael Nouri) and senator (the great Giancarlo Esposito) are booked at the same luxury hotel as Georgia. (Did we mention: In Prague!) The political power brokers are meeting with Matthew Kragen (Timothy Hutton), who happens to be the egotistical corporate executive running the chain of stores for which Georgia used to work. Do you need me to tell you that she's going to straighten these crooked suits out?
These ruptures don't create potholes large enough to swallow the film. Wang surrounds his actors with a sweetly sentimental environment that stems from Georgia's newfound freedom and resolve. Latifah's natural charm instantly calms the waters anytime overacting or hack writing threaten to make the voyage too choppy. Plus, any film that finds room for underused character actors like Esposito earns bonus points, even when he's asked to share scenes with hams (Gérard Depardieu) and cads (Hutton). These storytelling stopgaps make it easier to buy into Holiday's positive message of empowerment. You'll feel compelled to shout, 'You go girl.' Just don't focus too hard on how she gets to her destination.
The DVD includes two deleted scenes, three making-of featurettes (inlcuding one about how it took over 20 years to get the film made -- er, remade), and recipes from the film.
Orange you glad I didn't say 'banana?'