Last Holiday

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

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.

Free of inhibitions and determined to live life to the fullest, Georgia checks into the Presidential Suite, buys a designer wardrobe in expensive boutiques, makes extensive use of the hotel’s spa facilities, attempts snowboarding and base jumping off of a dam, enjoys succulent meals prepared by world-renowned Chef Didier (GĂ©rard Depardieu), and wins a small fortune playing roulette in the casino. She impresses the hotel’s staff, with the exception of cantankerous guest services manager Miss Gunther (Susan Kellermann), with her naive manner and forthright kindness, and mingles with some of the other guests, including Matthew Kragen (Timothy Hutton), a self-help guru and coincidentally the owner of the store where she works; his assistant/mistress Ms. Burns (Alicia Witt); pandering Senator Dillings (Giancarlo Esposito) from her home state of Louisiana; and prominent Congressman Stewart (Michael Nouri). Kragen is skeptical about Georgia’s origins and suspects her of trying to sabotage his business, but the rest are charmed by her free spirit.

When Kragen bribes Miss Gunther to dig up information about Georgia’s background, she finds a letter Georgia has written providing instructions for the disposal of her remains after her death. Miss Gunther is moved by the letter and realizes Georgia’s self-confidence and sunny optimism have touched everyone who has met her since her arrival. She confesses to Georgia she found the letter and urges her to return home and spend her last days with those she loves. Georgia takes Miss Gunther’s advice and heads for the airport, only to discover an avalanche has blocked the road. Unbeknownst to her, Sean – having learned of her diagnosis and ready to acknowledge his feelings for her – is in a taxi on the other side of the snowdrift, trying to reach her at the hotel.

Georgia returns to the hotel, and Sean starts across the snow on foot. At a New Year’s Eve party that evening, Kragen exposes Georgia as a saleswoman in one of his stores. Georgia tells them that Kragen is right and reveals that she’s going to die. Kragen’s colleagues, disgusted by Kragen’s insensitivity, embrace her and abandon him. Dejected and embarrassed, Kragen goes up to an upper floor of the hotel and sits on the ledge contemplating suicide. Georgia tries to persuade him to come down, suggesting if he were nicer and less driven and greedy, he would be a happier person.

Sean arrives at the hotel and joins Georgia and Kragen on the ledge. In the lobby, Miss Gunther finds a fax from Dr. Gupta, in which he tells Georgia she was misdiagnosed due to X-rays generated by a broken, outdated CAT scanner. Miss Gunther rushes up to the ledge to announce the good news. Georgia and Sean return to New Orleans to get married and open a restaurant, where they are visited by Chef Didier and Georgia’s long-time inspiration, Emeril Lagasse.


It may seem that with a title like Last Holiday, this is a film that I should have held off for the holidays, but that isn’t the case. Well, it does climax on New Year’s Day, but does anyone really consider that one of the “holidays”, seriously? At any rate, what makes this worth watching, if anything at all?

What is this about?

Given the news she’s terminally ill, Georgia throws caution to the wind, breaks out of her shell and takes a no-holds-barred European vacation. While she’s celebrating her last hurrah, she touches the lives of everyone around her.

What did I like?

Don’t sass me. Throughout most of Queen Latifah’s career, she has been relegated to playing sassy characters, but she gets a chance to break out of her comfort zone and give a soft, subdued performance the kind of which we don’t get from her very often, even though she clearly has the acting chops for such. That point aside, she does offer a wee bit of sass, just enough to fit the character and the scenes in which she uses it sparingly.

Feel. There is a feel of those old comedies from the 40s and 50s going on with this film and I liked it. As can be told by many of the films that are featured in other posts, I much prefer the older films, as opposed to the sex joke driven, CGI laden, lifeless schlock that studios churn out these days. With the retro feel, in terms of writing and comedy, the audience can really get invested in the characters, laugh at the situations, and not feel offended or uncomfortable with the joy that this film delivers.

How far they’ve come. Queen Latifah. LL Cool J. Will Smith. Ice Cube. Ice T. What do all these actors have in common? For the younger generation, they are all actors, but for those of that grew up in the 80s and early 90s, they were rappers. Seeing Queen Latifah and LL Cool J star in a film that has nothing to do with their genre of music shows how far they’ve come over the year. Hell, the Queen even has an Oscar nomination. The two of them have some nice chemistry that you just want to see more and more of. Perhaps some casting director will watch this and decide they need to be paired together again.

What didn’t I like?

CAT scan. A faulty CAT scan machine leads to a false diagnosis. This leads Queen Latifah’s character to spend money like its going out of style, even flying to Europe and staying in some fancy hotel. Since this is a movie, there isn’t much in the way of consequences, but one has to wonder had this happened in the real world, how big would that lawsuit have been. Truly, there is no reason for there to have been spots on the brain scans, and it should not have taken that long to find out that something was wrong.

No one likes you. As one can imagine, there is one bad apple who wants to be liked so bad that he goes out of his way to make sure that Latifah’s ruse is found out, even though she never really lied to anyone, just never said what she did for a job or that she was dying. I suppose for the purpose of his character, Timothy Hutton does a good job of being a douche, but to be so smug about revealing her secret. All his friends, including his mistress (or whatever she is) leave him. No wonder he went out and tried to kill himself!

Cooking. I love the setting of New Orleans. I happen to drive an hour east just to visit every chance I get, but there seems to be a trend happening with films set in this great city. Does every one who lives there have to end up opening a restaurant? The most notable of these that I can think of is Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. While I’m speaking of cooking, it is never really mentioned that she wants to open a restaurant. Yes, it is implied, but just like Roadblock in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, it seems as if it is a plot point that is forgotten until the writers realized that it was an important part of her character.

Last Holiday is a feel good movie that is sure to please everyone. Not everything has to be dark, depressing, violent, and/or moody to be successful and this proves that point. No, this isn’t the greatest picture in the world, but at least it is memorable, especially Queen Latifah’s performance as a meek sales clerk who has been diagnosed with a fatal disease. Do I recommend this? Yes, very highly! This is the kind of flick you can watch over and over again without getting tired of it, so check it out!

4 1/3 out of 5 stars


5 Responses to “Last Holiday”

  1. One of my all time favorites!! Great Review!

  2. Mystery Man Says:

    Thanks, man! Only my second or third time seeing it, but I found it to be much more enjoyable than the first time I saw it. Perhaps it’ll make its way to becoming one of my favorites, too!

  3. Beauty Shop, Just Wright, Last Holiday… there isn’t really a movie with Queen Latifa that can’t become part of a favorite list of movies. I am a big fan.

  4. Mystery Man Says:

    I haven’t seen Just Wright. I keep meaning to, though. Oddly enough, when I was flipping through channels last night, I think I saw it…lol

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