Holiday films before the holidays

Finding catharsis in great holiday rom-coms

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Contributed Image

A handicap without a great parking space while crying tears of valium. This is how Kate Winslet’s character in The Holiday describes unrequited love in her opening monologue. Beautiful and expressive metaphors to describe a feeling of loss and loneliness in a good romantic Christmas comedy from 2006. But it’s early November. Is it really time to be discussing Christmas movies?

Maybe not, but when my roommate and I were in a slump last night we pulled out a bag of popcorn, a pine scented candle and some vanilla tea to sit in for the night with a good holiday movie.

And as the movie started and Kate Winslet gave that excellent monologue, we both sighed and felt with her every word. It was beautifully cathartic, but it didn’t stop there.

When Cameron Diaz arrived on screen with her steadfast anger at her cheating partner, there was a great sense of righteous justice between us on the couch. Every scene the movie made us feel something new and surprising, or something old and familiar — oftentimes both since we had both seen the film before. We were being comforted by these beautiful stars having their melodramatic feelings and it seemed to exemplify exactly why we both watch romantic comedies in the first place.

I’m not sure if it’s that it distracts us from our own lives and problems or if it makes us feel like what we’re feeling is more normal than it seems. Heck, it could have been the wine (did I mention there was wine)? But I don’t really think it’s any of that. Though the wine probably helped.

Catharsis is a complimentary emotion. It doesn’t pop up on its own, it reinforces and concludes that which you were feeling previously. So when Kate Winslet describes heart break in such beautiful language as she does, or when Cameron Diaz falls for Jude Law’s single father persona and his daughters, those feelings reignite similar memories for you and makes them real again. The fact that it is set at Christmas just intensifies those feelings because so often we look forward to the holidays for something just as magical to happen to us. It’s satisfying because it completes the cycle of emotions both new and old.

The Holiday of course isn’t the best film of all time, and probably ranks among the inconsequential romantic comedies many of us saw when we were younger. But that is where its power lies. Holidays and romance fit the movies so well because we all need that feeling of catharsis every once in a while. They aren’t always what we need, but in those times when we can be cheered up by hearing “Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” and watching beautiful people fall in love, they are there, and that makes all the difference.

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