Holidate – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: a woman approaching her thirties, is under constant pressure around the holidays to find a partner and settle down. An aunt tells her that the random men she brings to every holiday event are her ‘holidates’; partners just for the holiday period. 

When she meets a man who has been similarly traumatised over holiday single-dom, she tells him about holidates. The two end up agreeing to be one another’s holidates. 

Is it any good?: Holidate is an amusing rom-com with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Emma Roberts, as Sloane, is luckier this time in being cast opposite someone who complements her better in Luke Bracey as Jackson.

In her previous rom-com, she found herself playing opposite a miscast Hayden Christensen, a casting error as the acting was fine from both, just not the chemistry. 

The chemistry between Roberts and Bracey works much better and pulls a relatively predictable film through its slightly long runtime of one hundred and three minutes. Holidate is an enjoyable film even if it does not bring anything new to the genre. 

Spoiler territory: Sloane (Roberts) is on the porch of her mother’s house, finishing a cigarette surrounded by lively Christmas decorations. On entering the house, she is immediately greeted by her mother, Elaine (Frances Fisher), who remarks on her dowdy appearance. She also informs her that her aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth), has brought the mall Santa (Carl McDowell) as her holiday date. 

Sloane’s sister, Abby (Jessica Capshaw) comes and greets her. Both mother and sister pester Sloane about her lack of a love life. As they leave her alone, she is accosted by her brother, York (Jake Manley) and his girlfriend, Liz (Cynthy Wu). They tell her she looks sad. Abby’s husband, Peter (Alex Moffatt) comes into the room. 

Sloane talks to her aunt. Susan tells her she met her date at the mall, as they watch him scoffing hors d’oeuvres still wearing his Santa suit. Susan tells her that he is just a holidate, a day for the holidays. No commitment. 

Elsewhere, Australian, Jackson (Bracey), is being introduced to Carly’s (Aimee Carrero) parents on their third date. They greet the couple dressed in matching Christmas jumpers. 

Carly’s mother (Meeghan Holaway) goes through a photo album, giving Jackson a little too much information about Carly. She even tells him that her and Carly’s father (Carlos Lacamara), do not mind if he sleeps over. 

Back with Sloane’s family and she is sitting at the children’s table as she is the only adult who does not have a partner and the table cannot accommodate her. 

One of her nieces, Daisy (Savannah Reina), questions her about her single status. She even boasts about having a boyfriend. Sloane tells it will be different when she is older. 

Jackson’s evening takes another turn, as an excited Carly jumps on him after telling him how much her parents love him. She proceeds to have sex with even as he tries to slow the relationship down. 

Sloane is gifted loungewear pyjamas for Christmas from her sister, a pointed reference to her spinsterhood. A still overwhelmed Jackson meanwhile, finds himself unwrapping a present of khaki pants from Carly. She is mortified when he tells her he did not get her a gift, as they had agreed not to exchange gifts. 

Carly rages at him, especially as they had had sex. He offers her cash, a gesture that enrages her more. Jackson leaves the house. Back with Sloane’s family and York proposes to Liz, even though they have only been together for three months. She accepts. The whole family cheer and whoop excitedly. Sloane remarks on how she likes her gift of pyjamas.

In the mall, after Christmas, Jackson is trying to return the khaki pants. The sales assistant (Nastassia Johnson) tells him he cannot get a refund without the receipt but he can get store credit. He does not want store credit. 

A grumpy Sloane interrupts, telling him that some of the people waiting have jobs. Jackson takes offence at the insinuation that he is unemployed. Sloane does not care and steps up to the counter, wanting to return the pyjamas she received for Christmas. 

The two end up comparing their awful holiday experiences. A customer behind them, with hair like Princess Leia, (Marisa Davila) offers to buy Jackson’s khaki pants. He declines the offer. The sales assistant returns.

Sloane’s pyjamas are from two seasons ago and only worth five dollars. As Sloane bemoans her sister’s cheapskate-ness, the Princess Leia customer tells her that she could make nice cut-off short with them. 

Jackson takes the pyjamas and his khakis and offers the lot to Princess Leia for fifty dollars. With some input from Sloane, they settle on forty-five dollars and a coupon for pretzels. 

Jackson and Sloane chat as they walk through the mall. Susan’s holidate, dressed in his Santa suit, hollers at Sloane. An embarrassed Sloane tells Jackson that the Santa was her aunt’s holidate. She explains what a holidate to him is and Jackson thinks it is a brilliant idea. 

He tells her they can be holidates for New Year’s. Sloane is reluctant to be a fake date with someone she barely knows but Jackson gives her his card. 

Whilst working from home, Sloane’s mother FaceTime’s her to introduce her to Faarooq (Manish Dayal) a doctor who has moved in next door. An exasperated Sloane ends the call. She contacts Jackson. 

They go to a New Year’s party where they proceed to make fun of other party-goers and what their lives might be like. Jackson sees a young man and older woman and begins to describe what he thinks their lives might be back. Sloane looks up to see her aunt Susan with another holidate, Ronald (Johnathan Baron). 

Jackson and Sloane sit chatting in a booth. Sloane tells him about Luc (Julien Marlon), who destroyed her faith in rom-com films. Sloane goes to the bathroom. In the bathroom, a woman, Annie (Mikaela Hoover) is being consoled by her friends because of the dark red stain on her white dress. She is expecting to get a marriage proposal. Sloane exchanges dresses with her. 

The night continues and Jackson disappears to the bathroom just as the clock strikes midnight. Sloane stands around awkwardly as couples smooch around her. She sees Annie get proposed to. Jackson returns and apologises sheepishly. 

The two ride in a cab silently. As Sloane is getting out, Jackson suggests they should meet up for Valentine’s. Sloane dismisses the notion. Fast forward and Abby and Liz are grilling Sloane about her plan for Valentine’s. 

Sloane tells them she plans to buy and eat copious amounts of chocolate. As she walks around a shop buying chocolate, Sloane bumps into an immaculate looking Luc. He is dismayed to see how dishevelled she looks but before he can say anything, his new girlfriend, Felicity (Nicola Peltz) comes over and mistakes Sloane for a shop worker. Felicity is stunning. 

Jackson sees Sloane squirming and comes to her rescue, pretending to be her boyfriend. They leave the store. Having inadvertently stolen a load of chocolate whilst escaping the store, the two eat chocolate in Jackson’s car and discuss their holidate arrangement, agreeing to reignite it and keep it platonic. 

St Patrick’s day sees them together in a pub. They bump into York, Liz and Abby. York already knows Jackson because he is his golf coach. Liz did not know that York played golf. Abby asks Sloane about Jackson and Sloane tells her it is strictly platonic. 

Elaine hosts an Easter brunch for the family. She invites Faarooq hoping to match him with Sloane. Sloane has brought Jackson. Susan, who has brought another holidate, is instantly attracted to Faarooq. 

Sloane and Jackson meet up for Cinco de Mayo, spending all day drinking tequilas. They fall asleep drunkenly but neither can remember if anything sexual happened between them. They meet up again for Mother’s Day. Elaine wants to know why the two of them have not even tried to get together. 

Jackson hangs out again with the whole family for Independence Day. By a lake, the men and the women split up, the men playing with fireworks, the women talking about men. Everybody’s fun is interrupted by Jackson having an accident. He blows a finger off. Sloane takes him to the hospital. Faarooq is the doctor who reattaches his finger. 

Finger reattached, Sloane takes Jackson to his home. Jackson tells his friend, Neil (Andrew Bachelor), that Sloane and his hands touched and there are feelings between them. Sloane tells Abby that she thinks there is a vibe between herself and Jackson. Neil tells him to break it off. Jackson tells Neil that he is meant to be accompanying her to her brother’s wedding on Labour Day. Neil tells him that he has to break it off. 

Abby says to Sloane that if he comes with her to the wedding it means he likes her. Jackson calls Sloane and says that they should take separate dates to the wedding before Sloane can suggest they go together. 

At the wedding, Sloane is with Faarooq and Jackson comes with Susan. Jackson and Sloane meet at the bar and bicker. They see Liz and her father dancing to an inappropriate song for the wedding and intervene. Everybody starts dancing and they see Faarooq and Susan grinding on the dance floor. Susan has an accident and Faarooq takes her away. 

York and Liz throw a Halloween Party. Jackson and Sloane attend but Sloane wants to leave when she sees that Luc has been invited and brings, a heavily pregnant, Felicity with him. Sloane’s misery is compounded when she finds it difficult to get out of the costume Jackson picked for her, especially as her sister accidentally gives her a laxative. 

Jackson takes her home and gets her into her apartment just as the laxatives begin to work. They lie down on her bed and end up fall asleep opposite one another. 

They end up making love to one another the next morning but when Abby comes over and confesses to kissing Neil, their conversation about what happened gets lost in miscommunication and mixed signals. 

Jackson tells Neil that Sloane kicked him out. Thanksgiving rolls around and it is being hosted again by Elaine. Sloane asks aunt Susan why she is not with Faarooq, her turning up with Wally (Dan Lauria). Susan tells her that she does not keep holidates.

Elaine burns the dinner, so Sloane and Jackson go to the store to and end up arguing about him leaving after their sexual episode. Jackson opens up to Sloane but she rejects him. 

Sloane returns to the house without Jackson and Abby tells her off for never taking responsibility in her relationships. Sloane blurts out that she kissed Neil and Peter hears it. Abby and Peter argue. Wally has a heart attack and Susan and Sloane go to the hospital with him. 

At the hospital, Susan confesses that she always ran from commitment. Faarooq comes out looking for Wally’s relatives. Susan ends up confessing that she got scared of getting close to him. They get back together. 

Sloane misses Jackson and starts stalking him. Out Christmas shopping at the mall, with Abby, Liz and Daisy, she sees Jackson on the down escalator as they are going up. Daisy tells her to go after him. She chases after him, screaming his name but the mall is too loud. A Christmas choir end up singing his name to get his attention. 

She confesses her love for him over a public PA system and they kiss. The end. 

Final thoughts: Holidate is an enjoyable rom-com written by Tiffany Paulsen and directed by John Whitesell. The central pairing of Roberts and Bracey works really well and, despite the inherent predictability of rom-coms, one still wants them to get together. 

The humour, for the most part, hits its mark with all the actors on show performing well and believably. Though the title and media lean towards this being a festive film, it is more of an anytime rom-com that just happens to be set between two Christmases. Every holiday is given a showing in the film. 

The film looks nice enough and is competently directed, maintaining a good pace throughout. Personally, I did feel it was a little on the long side with some scenes extraneous, mostly the scenes with Bachelor’s Neil, whose brevity in the film made the scenes irrelevant. 

The New Year’s sequence was a little overlong, lessening the emotional impact of Sloane giving her dress to Annie to get proposed to in. The entire Cinco de Mayo sequence could have been left out without it affecting the narrative at all.

There are so many characters in the film that it is difficult to justify all of them but the film just about manages it. These are minor gripes and, as I said earlier, the strength of the central pairing pulls one through the film. Holidate is worth a watch on a lazy, lockdown, afternoon.

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