Title: Holiday In the Wild
Year of Release: 2019
Available On: Netflix beginning 11/19
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Jingle Bells
I really wish the Eat Pray Love “white lady goes to a country full of brown people to find herself” storyline would fuck right the hell off. Do y’all really not know how harmful this is? How colonialist? I resisted watching this movie for several weeks — normally I would jump RIGHT IN when the image pops up on Netflix and I hear those bells a-jingling, but I feel strongly about my dislike for the over-arching idea that rich (or poor) white ladies should process their bad feelings in places other than their home country. Leaning heavily on the wisdom, strength, and straight-up charity of the POC they meet along the way. I don’t know that’s how this movie will go, but I kinda do know, though? I can’t decide if it would be better or worse if the love interest was actually an African man vs. the American white ex-pat as played by Rob Lowe. [Returned after watching to say that would have been worse. At least this way it’s colonizer + colonizer.]
Now that’s out of the way, we find Kate (Kristin Davis), basically the coolest and best version of the supportive rich lady wife sending her only child off to college. Her husband, Drew (Colin Moss), the most idiotic of imbeciles business dude-bros, promptly dumps her because he’s “not in love with her anymore.” No discussion, nada. Kate had planned a romantic “second honeymoon” for them and, devastated, decides to go on the trip alone. Lowe’s real-life son, John Owen Lowe, plays Kate’s son. He seems sweet. Anyway, Kate goes on her trip and gets sucked into the world of elephant rescue.
Derek: Nobody in the world needs ivory — except an elephant.
Did you know that elephants experience grief? It’s true. This is probably the most realistic grief portrayal of any of these g.d. movies, and yes, now I am crying about elephant grief. Because FUCK.
In true white savior fashion, Kate decides that she can be of service to the folks who have been rescuing elephants for who knows how long. Granted, she is a veterinarian, so she has far to offer than most white saviors. And she owns up to the fact that she hasn’t worked in some time and primarily has experience with cats and dogs. Could’ve done without the Rusted Root “Send Me On My Way” montage of “Dr. Kate” doing rounds.
Typical not-enough-build-up-to-the-love-affair approach. When they first (almost) kiss, I actually said, “Ewwwww” out loud. Also, she just got out of an apparently at least 18-year old marriage? She’s not even divorced yet? No judgment on the speed per se, you do you, but if she were my friend I would tell her to slow her roll. Or have the rebound with the hot safari pilot guy and be realistic about everyone’s ability to build a lasting relationship on such a shaky foundation. Why is everybody in such a rush all the time?? Ok, so she decides to stay. For months. And because she’s rich and a vet, she gets to do that. The rescuers tell her not to get too attached, because it’s not necessarily best for the elephants, but she’s constantly utilizing ownership language — “my elephant.”
And let me tell you one thing about safari. There are BUGS. Not a single bug in this movie. Meanwhile, they’re sleeping in open air in an uncovered Jeep — no bugs. Bugs are just part of the ecosystem, y’all, it’s a normal and good thing. They are in Zambia, apparently, but they repeatedly refer to where they are as “Africa.” At one point Kate does say, “Well, I can’t speak for the whole continent.” Do people talk like that in Zambia? I don’t know. I’ve never been there. But this is an idyllic and unrealistic portrayal of many things, not just love. Welcome to the genre.
The elephants are the best part. Says Davis:
“It wasn’t easy to make because I really wanted to make it in a different way in terms of how we worked with the elephants and I wanted to really change how people thought about using animals in film,” Davis said. “It’s basically my love letter to all of the people who spend their lives trying to save elephants and raise them and re-release them into the wild. And there are people all over Africa and also in Asia trying to do this. So, it wouldn’t make sense to do that and use trained elephants, obviously.” — O Magazine