Holidate opens with a cynical ambush from the two main characters in different but equally horrible Christmas Eve celebrations.
The basic premise of the movie is reminiscent of early-Wattpad days, in which two strangers tired of being single during the holidays decide to be each other’s platonic plus-ones for an entire year.
Sloane (portrayed by Emma Roberts) is inspired by her aunt who always has a random date for family events in the hopes of avoiding judgement, whom she calls her “Holidate[s]”. After a particularly painful Christmas Eve, Sloane runs into a tall, handsome, Australian stranger, Jackson (portrayed by Luke Bracey) who shares her frustration and hijinks ensue.
Sloane and Jackson have natural chemistry from the get-go, and their different personalities make the audience curious to see what’s in store.
Roberts portrays Sloane as a cynical (yet secretly romantic) and kindhearted character that endears her to both the audience and to Jackson, even if her kind deeds mean embarrassing moments of nudity.
Jackson is more open to the idea of romance but doesn’t want to worry about the pressures of the holidays. While witty and good-looking, both characters definitely have their flaws, whether it’s Sloane’s weird hang-up on being seen as a ‘slut’ or Jackson’s perception of most women as clingy or ‘mental.’
This makes it even more rewarding when Jackson is the one who gets attached to a closed-off Sloane.
However, the most interesting characters aren’t Sloane and Jackson but rather two secondary ones. One of those is Sloane’s aunt, played by Kristin Chenoweth and the second being Manish Dayal as Farooq, a charming doctor that Sloane’s mother keeps trying to set her up with. (I personally couldn’t help but root for him, maybe it’s because he seems like a good brown boy.)
Fortunately, they both get their happy ending.
All in all, Jackson and Sloane are perfect Holidates for one another in the first half, in a dynamic that can be summed up as good friends with slight sexual tension. When Jackson and Sloane spend the night together — with sappy romantic cinematography included, the audience is genuinely excited.
But it wouldn’t be a rom-com without a misunderstanding that needs to be overcome, the one in Holidate being a cold morning-after and the following tension. But it eventually — after a bit of tortured yearning — resolves itself with a grand romantic gesture.
The movie tries and fails to paint Sloane as unappealing — truly everyone in this movie is Hollywood-levels of smouldering. It also takes a bit for the dialogue’s pace to settle in, starting off rushed and a little like an every-man for himself improv competition.
However, it’s also good to note that there are questionable moments in how the few characters of colour are written, whether it is Sloane’s Asian sister-in-law Liz as uptight and ‘repressed’ or the incompleteness of Jackson’s best friend, played by King Bach.
The film is also ripe with moments of secondhand cringe and questionable character writing. Admittedly, Holidate can be a tough watch for people who are not avid fans of romantic comedies.
Holidate doesn’t celebrate being single, nor do the characters let us believe that they’re happy being single; but in many ways that is okay. The movie is allowed to be fluffy, with a friends-to-lovers scenario.
But, is Netflix trying to push the “men and women can’t be friends” agenda? Who knows! Regardless, it makes for fine watching and inspires nostalgia for pre-COVID times.
Overall Holidate is a fun, light-hearted movie with misunderstandings, moments of yearning, a grand romantic declaration and even more importantly a cheesy end-credit photoshopped montage.
What more could you want?