The Last Holiday
(Drama/Romance directed by Wayne Wang. Starring Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, and Gérard Depardieu. Released January 2006. Available on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Video, Vudu and Google Play Movies & TV)
As the holiday season approaches, many of us plan to ‘get away’ from our usual surroundings – often to visit family and friends, or perhaps to explore a new destination, someplace where we have never been before.
Yet what if with a change of circumstances, we also changed our consciousness?
What if we took a ‘holiday’ from our habitual way of living life? A holiday from ego based fear and worry?
What if we took a holiday from living life ‘inside a box’ and instead took a bold step to live life honestly, passionately and spontaneously?
In the Last Holiday, Georgia Byrd (played by Queen Latifah) leads a quiet, responsible and predictable life- working as a sales clerk in a retail store in New Orleans selling cookware while carefully clipping coupons to save money, and dutifully watching her diet by eating only Lean Cuisine meals.
However, beneath this quiet, calm exterior lies a passion for gourmet food, becoming a chef, travel to Europe, and even a secret desire to marry Sean (portrayed by LL Cool J), a co-worker at the same store. But Georgia is shy and quiet and a very private person. So she keeps all this inside- shared only in the pages of a scrapbook called ‘Possibilities’ which she keep hidden in a drawer underneath the kitchen counter.
Life seems to move along for Georgia until one day a freak accident at the store lands her in the employee health center. There she undergoes a CT scan that reveals several brain tumors resulting from a rare neurological disorder. Suddenly her predictable, organized life comes to a screeching halt. Her HMO will not cover the exorbitant cost of neurosurgery and she is given only a few weeks to live.
It is here that the real Georgia- underneath the mask of predictability, stability and discipline comes to the fore. After a period of anger, sadness and frustration, Georgia makes a bold decision- to follow her heart and quit her job. She then cashes all her bonds and retirement savings and flies first class for a holiday to Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), the most visited spa town in the Czech Republic and historically famous for its hot springs. It also is home to Georgia’s hero- world-renowned Chef Didier (portrayed by Gérard Depardieu).
For Georgia, with only a few weeks to live, time is more precious than all the money in the world. Instead of waiting for a cab, she flies via helicopter to the hotel. There she decides to stay at the Presidential Suite (at a nightly rate of $4000) because a regular room is not yet ready and she does not want to wait. She then pampers herself, buying a designer wardrobe from expensive boutiques, getting massages and other extensive spa treatments and enjoying all the rich and delicious meals prepared by Chef Didier. Free of fear and inhibitions, she even attempts snowboarding and BASE jumping off a dam and wins a small fortune playing roulette in the casino.
Georgia’s actions may seem extreme. Yet actress Queen Latifah brings so much sincerity, warmth and honesty to the character that I could not help but be captivated by Georgia as in the last weeks of her life she falls in love with Life. I felt a connection with her because I also long to be free from worry, fear and all sense of limitation. And I celebrated right along with her as she literally emerges from a cocoon of self-imposed limitations and transforms into a beautiful butterfly that exudes charm, beauty, grace, honesty and integrity. Nothing is hidden anymore. As one of the hotel busboys comments, Ms. Georgia Byrd says what she means and means what she says, and she does what she wants. Georgia has learned the art of letting Life live her- instead of blocking and restricting the flow of Life so that it is ‘predictable’ and ‘sensible.’
While taking a walk together in the town market to shop for food ingredients, Chef Didier comments to Georgia that the secret of life is butter. That may seem strange but what I understood is that life is meant to be lived in a spirit of richness- and that need not be about fancy hotels, luxurious spa treatments or fine dining with expensive wine. (certainly that doesn’t hurt!) It is an attitude where we feed that innate hunger for life by allowing Life to sing and rejoice through us. It is singing not because of how well we sing but because our heart just wants to sing. It is cooking not because of how well we cook but because that is what gives us joy and purpose. Finally it is not about how many years we live- but that the moments we do live we make a conscious choice to choose love over fear, connection over isolation and joy over sadness.
So if you are wanting to take a true holiday from the ‘ego self’ that keeps you playing it small and fearful in life, watch the Last Holiday.
Perhaps like me you too will feel more inspired to take a permanent holiday- from the fearful ego mind!