Starring: Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Gerard Depardieu, Timothy Hutton
Director: Wayne Wang
QUEEN Latifah as Alec Guinness? Now that’s a stretch of the imagination (or a trick question for Trivial Pursuit).
The answer is that Wayne Wang’s version of Last Holiday is a US adaptation and remake of an Alec Guinness film of 1950.
Novelist J.B. Priestley wrote the screenplay at the time of making the film of his classic play, An Inspector Calls.
The plot outline is much the same, except for the very end.
Wayne Wang made a number of small budget films in the 1980s, Dim Sum and Eat a Bowl of Tea. He moved into the major league with The Joy Luck Club.
Since 2000, he has been making very American romantic comedies with sentiment – Anywhere But Here, Maid in Manhattan, Because of Winn-Dixie. Last Holiday is one of these.
Imagine Queen Latifah as a quiet, somewhat fearful and repressed sales representative in a large department store.
We don’t have to make such an effort for this, although that is how the film opens.
When she is diagnosed as terminal, she decides to break out and to branch out and live her last holiday to the full.
She goes to Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, to the top hotel, to meet a chef she admires (who turns out to be Gerard Depardieu looking genially dishevelled, despite the fact that the credits say he had a costume assistant and a hair stylist to make it look as if he had just got out of bed).
She lives it up but she is an innately kind person who speaks her mind clearly and changes the lives and attitudes of all the people she meets, staff and millionaires alike.
The most dastardly of these is Timothy Hutton, holidaying with his mistress and trying to bribe politicians to pass legislation to benefit his company.
LL Cool J is the ardent admirer of Queen Latifah, but also reticent and low key.
What happens when you have only a few weeks to live? The answer here is that you live the capitalist dream, you live it up in luxury, do all the things you didn’t know you wanted to. But be nice.