“If you are looking for something mindless to watch after a hard day of work, this film might be just what you need”

review by Annie Wildemann

I’m a big fan of Christmas. I’ve been blasting Christmas carols since November 1st and I have a  list in my journal with 79 Christmas movies that I NEED to watch before December 25th. So I figured that watching Netflix’s brand new movie, Holidate, would be a sweet way to start the season. After all, what says ‘Christmas’ more than cheesy romance?

The film centers around two protagonists – Sloane (played by Emma Roberts from American Horror Story and Scream Queens) and Jackson (played by Luke Bracey of Point Break and The Best of Me fame). Both are tired of not having dates to take to family functions during the holidays. However, neither is interested in putting in the work that actually goes in to dating someone. So, they develop a plan to be each other’s platonic dates for the holidays.

Let it be said that I am a fan of romantic-comedy films: I love the movies Knocked Up and Friends with Benefits. Both movies begin with the protagonists crafting a plan to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship, where they engage in either sexual or romantic feelings as friends and then develop romantic feelings after. These movies are predictable and satisfying. Netflix’s description of Holidate promised to follow this trope with a yule tide twist. My hopes were high.

Both lead actors in the film are conventionally good looking – as one would expect for this genre. Roberts is a classic Hollywood beauty. She has long, blonde hair, wears probably a size 2 and looks like she could have just stepped out of a Victoria Secret catalog. Jackson, the male lead, is a Chris Evans/ Chris Hemsworth look alike. He is blonde as well, buff and has a sexy, Australian accent. The two actors have decent chemistry on-screen (as attractive people usually do) and are easy on the eyes.

I wondered though, why in 2020 the casting director of Holidate didn’t make more of an effort to cast people for the leads that weren’t white or didn’t fit into typical European standards of beauty? I felt like the casting choices made for this movie were not really anything special. In the past, Netflix has done a lot of really awesome work with casting different types of people to make their movies more inclusive, so I was disappointed that the leads in Holidate didn’t challenge any norms.

The second qualm that I had with this film is that there are two major plot holes. The two protagonists go into this relationship because they are exhausted from always having to bring someone home during the holidays – but, we don’t see Jackson’s family at all during the film, which makes it unclear how he is benefiting from the relationship. Additionally, Sloane tells her family members straight up that Jackson and she are platonic ‘holidates’, so it does not actually stop Sloane’s mom from constantly setting her up with random acquaintances. Because of both these things, it is extremely unclear what the benefit of Sloane and Jackson being each other’s platonic ‘Holidates’ is. 

I was also upset that this wasn’t actually a Christmas movie. The film starts on Christmas Eve with two scenes documenting the separate, awkward Christmas experiences of both the main characters. Sloane shows up at her parent’s house for Christmas dinner, only to learn that she is the only person in her family who hasn’t brought a date (even her spinster Aunt Susan has brought the mall Santa!). Jackson gets more than he bargained for when a girl who he has only been on three dates with takes him home for Christmas, and ropes him into wearing matching family Christmas sweaters and suffering endless hours of family photos.

These two scenes were funny and I was excited to see what other Christmas hijinks would happen for the two protagonists. However, in what I can only explain as the opposite of a Christmas miracle, after 20 minutes it became clear that my wish would not be granted. This is because I quickly learned that the ‘holidate’(s) being referred to in the film’s title, were all American holidays and not just Christmas. This made me feel sad given the fact that I had chosen to watch this non-Christmas film first when I still had 78 other actual Christmas films to watch and limited time to do so!

Nonetheless, if you can get over the initial disappointments of the the two major plot holes, the protagonist’s average-ness and the fact that it is not a Christmas movie, this movie becomes kind of comforting in its ‘shittiness’- like a dingy dive bar. I wouldn’t disagree with Rotten Tomatoes critics rating this film – 45% – as I do feel like there are some big problems with the film that cannot be overlooked.

That being said though, if you are a romantic-comedy lover like me and are looking for something mindless to watch after a hard day of work, this film might be just what you need. The film is cute, comfortingly predictable, funny at times, and hits all the points that you want a romantic comedy to hit. If you decide to watch it just make sure to keep your Christmas standards low and your glass of mulled wine full.

directed by John Whitesell
screenplay by Tiffany Paulsen

currently streaming on Netflix