This year may be the worst ever when it comes to trying to find romance the traditional way. So, Netflix’s holiday rom-com lineup is here to make you feel worse during the most festive time of the year - to remind you that life is not a movie. There are no unexpected meet-cutes, no orchestrated gags, and no grand declarations of love. All you can do is sit indoors, wallow in your loneliness, over a glass of vodka.
What is the story about?
Personal cynicism aside, that’s not me… that’s Sloane (Emma Roberts) talking. Recently dumped by her hot French boyfriend, Sloane is tired of ending up alone at family gatherings where everything seemingly revolves around her personal life or lack thereof. In the queue to return a hideous pair of Christmas pyjamas, she meets Jackson (Luke Bracey), a golf pro who has just been let off by a clingy date. Sloane and Jackson are your typical anti-romance specimens in a romantic movie. She is suffering from heartbreak and he doesn’t believe in commitment. They both hate the holidays (which the script tries to justify with her family setting Sloane up with random men as long as they’re single, and Jackson reeling off random flings) when it’s really just them trying to get over a few years (a lifetime in the millennial world) of bad dating experiences. Either way thus begins the ‘Holidate’ pact - a strange universe where both will be each other’s escorts at New Year’s, Easter, 4th of July, Cinco de Mayo... you get the drift.
‘Self-aware’ is the new tired genre of movies that we’re going to sit and talk about one day, and Holidate is a part of it. The characters of the film, Sloane and Jackson specifically, are obviously privy to the tropes that plague romantic comedies and don’t hold back in calling them out. They know that the problems the boy and the girl face in getting together aren’t that serious in the first place… at least nothing that a run-across-the-airport or a heartfelt speech in a public place can’t fix. Sloane’s sister even says it - “You like him, he likes you, these are not real problems.” Most successful romcoms have a small fix for this - get a charming leading pair and have them go through a series of engaging events even if wafer-thin obstacles keep them apart throughout. It’s not like we didn’t see the poster… we know what’s coming.
Bracey and Roberts have genuine chemistry, and the premise is set in such a way that it gives the script plenty of opportunities to play around with funny and inventive gags for each significant holiday that Jackson and Sloane do date at. But what ends up happening is mostly annoying and repetitive, if not forgettable occurrences. On Valentine’s Day, Jackson helps Sloane save face in front of her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend - snore. On Independence Day, Sloane gets high on weed and Jackson loses his finger playing with firework - *eyeroll.* On the occasions that the two get to talk to each other about something meaningful, they taint their cynical views on love in the garb of sexist comments about how girls are clingy and baby-crazy, and guys need to run away the moment a girl gets serious. At the end of it, Holidate embraces the very tropes it attempts to mock. A lot is stuffed over its 104-minute runtime, and only a few minutes from it is somewhat romantic.
The real tragedy is that I could see the potential of a really romantic story between Sloane and Jackson because both Roberts and Bracey have the charm and talent to make us believe in this ‘cockamamie’ plot. As I mentioned before, the two have immense chemistry… and a lot of sex appeal. Strangely though, the script attempts to incorporate raunchy situations (perhaps to separate Netflix from Hallmark) with everyone apart from them. Sloane’s aunt, played by Kristin Chenoweth, is used as the cougar who came up with the ‘Holidate’ idea and she and her younger doctor date shack it up on a dance floor at a wedding, just a few minutes after she goes on a finger-sucking rampage with another guy. I also don’t see the point of mentioning the teething issues between Sloane’s brother York and his new bride Liz, or possible marital cracks between her elder sister Abby (Jessica Capshaw) and her husband, if they won’t play a role in the overall story.
Music & Other Departments
The film has a few funny dialogues but nothing meaningful. The overall production is pretty standard for a Netflix film.
These days, romcoms work solely on the basis of their star couple, if they’re not subverting the cliches of the genre. Sloane and Jackson are predictably closet-romantics and quite likable otherwise. The script does them no favours by being so adamantly against making them seem so. But they’re good looking, so maybe you will click on that thumbnail.
Aplenty. Holidate is just a melange of scenes and ideas which have been pulled off more successfully by its generic predecessors (including some teen romcoms on Netflix), none of which seem to come together. There is absolutely nothing worth remembering as unique in the film except a scene of sisterhood early on where Sloane exchanges her party dress with a stranger because she spilled some wine on hers.
Did I enjoy it?
No. I was expecting something a bit more warm and fun. I was bored.
Do I recommend it?
No. Rewatch The Holiday or Love Actually.