Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but, honestly, I don't see how anyone could give Last Holiday anything less than five stars. This is a good, good movie through and through. The story, the casting, and the settings are just dead-on, but it's Queen Latifah who really makes this movie special. Who would have thought, all those years ago, that this young female rapper would someday absolutely light up the screen and connect with audiences in a way few actresses can match? She's simply wonderful in the role of Georgia Byrd, a character that so many of us can identify with. Georgia is "just folks," a kind and caring woman who has spent her whole life waiting for something big to happen, too shy and afraid to do anything more than maintain a scrapbook of "possibilities" - places she wants to go, things she wants to do, and the man she wants to be with. Just as she is beginning to come to terms with her suddenly thirty-something life, Fate comes up and punches her right in the mouth. Not only is she dying of a rare disease, she only has three or four weeks to live.
Rather than lie down and wait for death, Georgia decides to live her last days to the fullest. Cashing in all of her assets, she jets off to the spectacular Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary (in the Czech Republic), where she lives like a queen in the Presidential Suite, dines in the restaurant of the famous Chef Didier (Gerard Depardieu), and embraces activities such as snowboarding and base jumping. Almost immediately, she becomes the talk of the town. Hotel staff marvel at such an obviously wealthy woman actually treating them with kindness and respect, while some of the other guests try to find out who she is and (in the case of a few) what she is up to. Among those other guests are Matthew Kragen (Timothy Hutton), the owner of the retail store Georgia worked at (whose profits-only management style rubbed her entirely the wrong way - and didn't exactly boost profits, either), an important Congressman, and one of her own state's U.S. senators. Along for the ride, as well, is the striking Alicia Witt as Kragen's mistress. Last but not least is Sean Matthews (LL Cool J), Georgia's former co-worker and all-around man of her dreams, who comes to play a profound role of his own in Georgia's life. As for Kragen, who really is a loathsome creature, he's suspicious of this nouveau riche stranger who seems to enchant everyone around him, from Chef Didier to the political cronies with whom he is trying to pave the way for a major new acquisition. Suspecting her of trying to sabotage his pending deal, he sets out to prove that he is far more equal than she is. All of these diverse characters' lives will be changed forever by Georgia's interaction with them.
Last Holiday is a romance, drama, and comedy all rolled into one - and it has a unique effect on the viewer. While the movie is genuinely funny throughout, the dark shadow of this wonderful character's impending death hangs over every shining moment. Personally, the movie made me feel a little bit unsettled; I couldn't stand the thought of this wonderful character dying. It isn't every movie that can make you laugh with a lump in your throat, but Last Holiday can make you do just that. I give a lot of credit to the writers, as they tie every little plot element together beautifully.
Those with a passion for the gourmet may be interested in knowing that all of the ritzy food dishes seen in this movie were prepared by chefs from the Food Network, and the recipes for each of the featured dishes were posted on the Food Network web site - I don't figure this Southern boy is going to get a hankerin' for Spiced Lamb Shanks with Blood Orange Relish any time soon, but I'll know where to look if the urge hits me.
The important thing is that you watch this movie. It doesn't just make you laugh or cry, it gives you a new appreciation for life and the inspiration to get off your duff and start living - and to treat others with respect while you're doing it.