Holidate movie review: Emma Roberts' Netflix romcom fails to bring in the Christmas cheer it promises
Netflix's Holidate is restricted by its genre limitations with little new to offer.
Christmas films always bring a special dose of holiday cheer to Hollywood’s jampacked slate every year. This year, the Netflix release Holidate rings in the winters early with a cutesie tale starring Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey in the lead.
The film opens into the borderline pathetic lives of Sloane (Roberts) and Jackson (Bracey) as they try their best to survive the prolonged period of winter events without feeling worse about their lives. Sloane finds herself lonely in a claustrophobic and overly enthusiastic family consisting of a pushy mother, an always pitying sister, a younger brother happily (and quickly) settling into married life, and a feisty aunt who manages to find herself a date for the end-of-year festivities.
The handsome Aussie Jackson, on the other hand, is smack in the middle of a crisis himself when his casual date hurls him into unexpected territories while meeting the girl’s parents. They treat him as their future son-in-law and even gifts him matching gaudy green sweaters to don on the occasion. When push comes to shove, he clarifies his intentions (or the lack thereof) and makes a dash for it.
A chance meeting brings the two protagonists together and they crack a deal to feign dating each other just till the holiday pressure subsides. They lay down strict rules which include being platonic with each other.
Their first faux date goes decently well, and their constant one-upmanship sees them through most of the special occasions till Valentine’s Day. But director John Whitesell fails to align the film with the winter holiday charm. The narrative gradually moves into the space of a girl-meets-boy love story rather than a Christmas special. For an audience that has been duly programmed for such a genre with years of film history as reference, Holidate offers nothing but predictable plot twists and a hackneyed climax.
But credit where it's due, both Sloane and Jackson’s characters reside in the realm of not desperately wanting to latch on to someone, despite their respective circumstances. Their interactions with each other are amply boosted by harmless flirting and inane humour, which make them indispensable to each other’s worlds, even at the cost of alienating their viewers.
Holidate also offers a hat-tip to its genre predecessors (that have been giants in their own rights), which include Sloane and Jackson riffing on the Ryan Gosling version of Swayze’s Dirty Dancing scene from Crazy Stupid Love.
When their casual choices give way to more serious feelings, the two begin hiding their instincts lest the other gets commitment-phobic. Confusion reigns and emotions are mutually hurt till the point of no-return when miraculously, things fall into place for a happily-ever-after.
In Holidate, Roberts brings in her edgy self (courtesy her quirky outing as a witch in American Horror Story’s Coven season). The film gains a spirited heroine because of Roberts’ sassy presence on screen which compliments Bracey’s calmer presence.
It’s always a lean playing ground if the genre is as limited as a rom-com (that too one which ought to focus on Christmas) and Holidate delivers no pleasant surprises. Despite its sincere attempts, the film could easily be shelved as another addition to Netflix’s plethora of Mills and Boon-esque features on romance.
Holidate is currently streaming on Netflix.
(All images from Twitter)
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