Directed by #JohnWhitesell
Written by #TiffanyPaulsen
Film Review by Amber Jackson
Fed up and frustrated with being single for the holidays, two strangers Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) agree to be a platonic pair every time a family event takes place. The result of this strange arrangement is heart-warming and funny, but results in confusion at times. The script has original flair and, ironic or not, is ultimately just a bit of fun.
Suffice to say, some of these characters are relatable, if not exaggerated, personas of family members that some may encounter during the holidays. Emma Roberts yet again proves that she will eternally embody the moody young adult, but she acts this so well. Her sarcastic deadpan characterisation of the bitterly alone Sloane acts as the foundation for this film as she appeals to the relatability of being single at Christmas. We have all been there at one time or another.
What we learn from Sloane’s family life is that her family members refuse to mind their own business and invoke judgement wherever possible. Sloane constantly feels attacked and is effectively shunned for not having a partner to bring to holiday events. Her older sister (Jessica Capshaw) at least tries to soften the blow and attempts a form of reassurance, but their mother (Frances Fisher) is an outright caricature. She belittles her daughter in the same way she exercises moral judgement over the famously single Aunt Susan (Kristen Chenoweth – who does seem to have the most fun in this film). This warped exaggeration of the American family stereotype seeks to gain outraged laughs and it succeeds.
Differing from this, the film does not shy away from the infectious Christmas spirit that audiences adore. Tiffany Paulson’s scriptwriting invents both Sloane and love interest Jackson to be both broody and Scrooge-like when it comes to the holidays, which comes as a result of their serial singledom. One aspect of this film that is fun to watch is the gender role reversal between Jackson and Sloane that surfaces in certain scenes. To see a female character as flawed and complex makes her more relatable and to see a male character displaying emotions other than anger is refreshing to see. Luke Bracey takes a festive breakaway from his acting CV and characterises the comical, reliable and unruly Jackson like a budget version of the love interest. He does a great acting job in balancing comedy and seriousness well and it would have been nice for him to have clearer individual character development.
Both Jackson and Sloane are constantly talking about famous rom-com films throughout and seem to enjoy making classic references to romantic films like Dirty Dancing. In making fun of these films, the film exists to ruin every cliché that these famous films of the 1990s and 2000s has created. Paulson’s writing is witty and meta in its mockery of the romantic genre, but it seems unfortunate that the entire premise of the film does not quite match up to its ending. Being single at Christmas is presented as such a negative thing and Christmas films are often notorious for making single people feel lonely. Holidate is ultimately so unromanticised that it becomes romantic and this seems a shame – why not do something a little different with a Christmas film?
This film does end typically of its genre – leaving the audience with warm fuzzy feelings. Which is what you want out of a festive feel-good film, right? It's nice and new, but it's nothing too new. The overall takeaway? Always trust a date, holidate or not, who can provide peppermint tea.
Ultimately, this viewing experience is like watching one of those mediocre TV Christmas films, except with better and more explicit humour and outrageous jokes. If you are looking for a fun and festive (and not so family-friendly) watch during Lockdown 2.0 as we approach Christmas time, this will be worth the watch.
Holidate is available to stream on Netflix UK now.