A sure sign that the festive season is rolling in, is when the Christmas movies start popping up. It’s easy to tell them apart from regular movies because they all have a boy and a girl on the poster, standing in front of either a Christmas tree, fairy lights, or snow (perhaps all three), and more often than not they star actors that you recognise from somewhere but can’t quite place. This year, the first (probably of many) Christmassy movie poster that popped up on Netflix was the one for Holidate. I clicked it hesitantly, expecting to watch some extremely cliché Christmas movie that followed the same pattern all the rest do. While it certainly wasn’t lacking in the cliché department, Holidate wasn’t quite the Christmas movie I had been expecting either – and that’s the one thing that may have redeemed it.
I’m not really one for Christmas movies. I find them quite dull and predictable. It’s for that reason that Holidate was, in some ways, a pleasant surprise. Although it seems like a typical Christmas movie, the film’s plot actually takes place over the course of an entire year – and all the holidays that happen throughout. Though it does come full circle, starting and ending with Christmas celebrations, it may not satisfy that mysterious yuletide urge to watch cheesy romantic storyline which takes place in a snowy winter wonderland and in a range of hideous Christmas sweaters (although a few do make appearances).
The film follows singles Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson ( Luke Bracey) as they try to recover from their horrendous family Christmases by striking up a deal to be each others dates for future holiday events – for as long as they’re both single. We travel along with them as they attend celebrations for New Years Eve, St Patrick’s Day, the Fourth of July, and a host of other celebrations that most people don’t particularly care about outside of the USA. Even some that seem like unnecessary additions for two very white leading characters.
The film kicks off with what seems like a very desperate attempt at being awkward and cringey, which does indeed have us cringing, but for the wrong reasons. Did they need to try so hard? It also seems to put a lot of effort into being raunchy, or even crude, which is rare for the genre.
Roberts and Bracey have an easy on-screen chemistry that works well – not to mention he has that accent and she has those doe eyes – but the script doesn’t really do them any favours. By the end of the film we’re still left feeling like they haven’t actually said very much – or done much apart from attend parties. This reliance on the tension between the actors causes the entire movie to fall somewhat flat – but then again, anyone who clicked it in order to watch a Christmas movie was probably expecting that anyway.
It’s also predictable as heck, and displays a host of flimsy side characters we also don’t really get to know but again, that’s par for the course in this genre.
If you think I’m being harsh, according to Nell Minow’s review for the film, “Holidate does not have a single authentic moment, appealing character, or genuine laugh. It’s a would-be romantic comedy with neither romance nor comedy, an excruciating onslaught of unremittingly dull incidents slogging its way toward an utterly predictable conclusion”.
That being said, I didn’t hate this movie. It had a few quirky moments, and Jackson’s character did grow increasingly likeable ( but maybe that’s just the accent again). Of course, Emma Roberts is cute in everything. The fact that it covers an entire year, rather than just one romantic miracle Christmas may have been Holidate‘s salvation as it at least implies that the characters knew each other for a while before, predictably, falling in love, even if we only see them meeting on the holidays.
The film’s emphasis on holiday celebrations did come as something of a depressing reminder that, in 2020, holidays have been largely dampened by COVID-19, and that most of us – the compassionate and responsible ones, anyway – have been avoiding parties like…well, the plague.
It’s an unrealistic, escapist cliché, but those serve their own purpose, and Netflix is great at them. I managed to finish it, so I can’t say it was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It was definitely better than A Christmas Prince (but then again I finished that too). If you’re looking for something to watch that doesn’t involve the need to do much thinking, and you just want to see an attractive white couple falling in love, by all means, Holidate could be the film for you.
Heaven knows after the year we’ve had we can all do with some light-hearted movie nights to lower our stress levels for the remainder of 2020. Then again, if you like your brain cells the way they are, you should probably give it a miss.