Early on in Holidate, Emma Roberts’ character says she hates the predictability of romantic comedies since it’s obvious the couple paired together on the movie poster will end up together. It’s a damning indictment on the genre in general and there’s no real workaround for the inevitable structure of your basic rom com.
While the end result of Holidate is never in question even as it goes through the frustrating cliché hoops these films demand there’s still plenty of fun and laughs thanks to the chemistry of Roberts and co-star Luke Bracey.
After another disastrous Christmas with her family, Sloane (Roberts, The Hunt) hits the mall to replace a lame, oversized gift. Her meet cute with fellow traumatized Christmas gift recipient, Jackson (Bracey, G.I. Joe Retaliation), initially doesn’t get off on the best foot, but they bond over their mutual loathing of spending holidays alone.
Inspired by Sloane’s free-spirited aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth), Jackson and Sloane agree to be each other’s no-strings attached standing date for the holidays. No sex, no commitment and no feelings.
Screenwriter Tiffany Paulsen has no shot of coming up with an end game twist, but she makes the inevitable entertaining. Paulsen thankfully doesn’t go the obnoxious route of Sloane keeping her family in the dark about Jackson’s role.
Sloane’s sister, Abby (Jessica Capshaw), is all for this progressive dating approach even if she doesn’t see anything wrong with Sloane and Jackson making their arrangement an actual relationship. Their mother, Elaine (Frances Fisher) does not approve and keeps pushing the charming doctor Farooq (Manish Dayal, Agents of SHIELD), a much better match on paper.
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Director John Whitesell (Big Momma’s House) makes Sloane and Jackson’s various holidates on Valentine’s Day, Easter, Cinco de Mayo and even Mother’s Day enjoyable. Whitesell opted out on trying to make Labor Day memorable, but the Halloween date was very funny.
Roberts has quietly mastered her comedic timing to the point she could be the face of Netflix’s romantic comedy offerings. Her facial expressions convey more than some dialogue, her line delivery is always precise and she doesn’t shy away from physical comedy either.
With his short blonde haircut, stubble and Australian accent, Bracey easily could establish a career as the romantic comedy Chris Hemsworth. He has an easy confidence and swagger that’s ideal for the genre while being able to show enough vulnerability to make viewers swoon.
With an hour 43 minute run time, the film does start to feel a bit long and could have benefited from losing 10 to 15 minutes. Most of that excess time revolves around subplots focused on Abby, Susan and Sloan’s sister-in-law Liz (Cynthy Wu).
These subplots aren’t bad in themselves, but they’re not given enough time to truly get developed enough to make the payoffs worthwhile. Still, between Farooq, Liz, Jackson’s best friend, Neil (Andrew Bachelor), and Jackson’s ex (Aimee Carerrero), Holidate featured a commendable effort to have a diverse cast.
The not-so-secret key of any romantic comedy is the leads must have believable chemistry so you want their characters to end up together. Roberts and Bracey make that look easy with good banter and a strong give and take in their scenes.
Holidate doesn’t shake up the rom com genre, but it’s a fun way to incorporate multiple holidays in a very enjoyable way.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix