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  • Writer's pictureAlice Emanuel-Trinca

Renegade romance turns run of the mill rom-com- Holidate

Christmas has come early (in the film world anyway)!

We begin Netflix’s holiday season with Holidate, starring Emma Roberts known for American Horror Story and Scream Queens. Here she plays Sloane – a delightfully cynical young woman with a heart of gold. Alongside her is the dashing Luke Bracey as the shallow playboy turned Prince Charming – Jackson.

Holidate, written by Tiffany Paulsen (Nancy Drew, Friday the 13th: Part VIII) and directed by John Whitesell (Chicago P.D, Girl Meets World) is a welcome twist on the classic American Christmas film audiences are subjected to year after year. It is a diverting blend of subversive humour, millennial disillusionment, and genuine romance.

Bored of the usual tedium of having to date casually at the holidays, Jackson and Sloane appoint each other as their respective ‘holidates’, meaning a no strings attached, no pressure system whereby they act as one another’s dates, first of all, for New Year’s Eve and then Valentines Day, until before you know it almost a year has passed, and our platonic dynamic duo seems to be walking right into the rom-com trap they’ve both tried so hard to avoid.

The film itself seems to be incredibly self-aware of all the usual pitfalls of most romantic comedies, even going as far as to have the central characters comment on it themselves, with Sloane saying “You know they’re going to be together from the poster.” This and the various appearances of Sloane’s sexually charged Aunt Susan (Kristen Chenoweth) and a few well-placed (though not particularly sophisticated) adult jokes, seem to set up a seditious, up-to-date Christmas romance that promises to be unlike the routine Boy-meets-Girl trope we have become so familiar with.

Despite its best efforts to shake the status quo, Holidate seems to miss its own point, and proves to be a sucker for convention. What begins as a renegade romance, quickly evolves into a run of the mill rom-com. The off-colour humour and self-proclaimed censoriousness, are unfortunately overshadowed by a series of hijinks and tomfoolery, including but not limited to: a blown-off middle finger, an ill-fated Dirty Dancing lift, and two unfortunate ex-boyfriend encounters, all culminating in the sinking feeling that we are once again awaiting the inevitable coupling of two remarkably attractive, straight, white people. Which wouldn’t be so bitterly disappointing had the film not done so much work steering away from exactly that.

While both characters are likeable in their own way, and the premise is original, the story does become repetitive. We see both characters endure holiday after holiday, vehemently denying that there is anything more to their relationship. Then, the plot forces some ploy on them that draws them ever closer together, and ever closer to the happy ending we all know they will have. This process is repeated at least three times throughout the course of the whole film.

Notwithstanding its predictability, the film proves to be an entertaining watch, even if you are just waiting for the next appearance of the bawdy Aunt Susan. Jackson and Sloane are a match made in heaven and so are Roberts and Bracey. The exceptional chemistry between the two carry the film from start to finish, and even a self-proclaimed “rom-comphobe” such as myself, may find themselves rooting for the couple as the film goes on.

Though woefully predictable, Holidate does provide a welcome change of pace from 2020’s pandemic induced melancholy. It perfectly captures the yule-tide disillusionment that plagues so many of us and squeezes in a few genuine laughs here and there. If you’re looking for a will they-won’t they (they definitely will) love story, with a Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Easter/Halloween/Thanksgiving twist, plus a healthy dose of cynicism and playfulness then this is the film for you!

Holidate is streaming now on Netflix.


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