Although largely composed of snippets from dozens of other caper comedies, LENA'S HOLIDAY freshens up familiar plotting with a sunny leading lady and a few picturesque detours from the principal plot.
Pity poor Lena (Felicity Waterman), an East Berliner on the first day of her long-awaited dream vacation in America. Ripped off by a cab driver (Bill Dana), Lena discovers that her palatial hotel is actually a way station for prostitutes in a seedy part of Los Angeles. Then she makes the mistake
of picking up a stranger's travel bag, not realizing that it contains twice-stolen diamonds hidden inside condoms. While criminal mastermind Jan (Michael Sarrazin) appropriates Lena's travel bag, she gets mixed up with a helpful cabbie, Mike Camden (Chris Lemmon), and an eccentric Lothario
photographer, Corey Flynn (Nick Mancuso). When the confused Lena seeks temporary shelter with the amorous shutterbug, he immediately proposes marriage.
Leaving behind the suitcase full of diamond-stuffed rubbers, she flies the coop only to get picked up once more by considerate cabbie Camden. When he helps her locate the woman with whom she accidentally switched suitcases, Lena is shocked to discover that the woman is dead and about to be
stuffed into a trunk by Jan's henchmen, but when she returns moments later with Mike the body has vanished. Seeking solace, Lena confides in Mike and temporarily moves in with him. Although they start to fall in love, Lena suspects a double-cross when she spies Mike through a telescope; he's
showing a stranger a diamond Lena gave him, and Mike receives a videotape.
Is Mike friend or foe? Reeling from what she perceives as Mike's duplicity, Lena encounters real danger as Jan and a goon invade Mike's pad and threaten her. Spiriting her away to Corey Flynn's mansion, where she abandoned the bag full of diamonds, the bad guys take over Flynn's digs temporarily
until Lena relocates the gems. Although Camden arrives in the nick of time, Jan holds Lena hostage. In a plot twist, Camden turns out to be a detective; the stranger Lena spied on through the telescope is actually Mike's partner who helps him apprehend Jan. (The videotape contained footage of the
suitcase mix-up at the airport.) In the true spirit of international cooperation, a relieved and love struck Lena decides to spend the remainder of her American vacation with Mike Camden.
What works best in LENA'S HOLIDAY is the central romance between its easy-going, all-American good guy and the rigid Berliner who learns to let go of her itinerary and to stop squeezing all the spontaneity out of her life. Despite the tiredness of the suitcase-switch plot device, the film summons
up enough wacky characters and joi de vivre to coast along on charm. Among the comic jewels in this literally diamond-studded story line are Bill Dana as a sleaze-ball cabbie whose family accompanies him on drives with unwary passengers and Nick Mancuso as the playboy lensman who proposes marriage
at the drop of a hat. Genuine romantic sparks are struck between the appealingly cocky Lemmon and the dreamy Felicity Waterman, a rare combination of comic finesse and smashing good looks.
If LENA'S HOLIDAY eventually overcomes its lack of originality, it is due to the success with which it reconciles its suspense elements with the European-American love story. Neither element bumps into the other. If this caper moved at a faster clip, if some of the plot complications had been
developed with more ingenuity, and if the Lemmon-Waterman affair hadn't been padded out quite so much, LENA'S HOLIDAY might have been a first-rate diversion instead of a pleasant surprise. (Violence, profanity, adult situations.)
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