Review: ‘Holidate’ works as distraction, not feature film

The Netflix holiday rom-com "Holidate" stars Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey as strangers who make a deal to be each other's dates strictly for the holidays. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

By Madalyn Watson | Editor-in-Chief

In honor of Halloween, I decided to binge all the horror films I could get a hand on. This was a grave mistake. The overall atmosphere and feeling of the world is a little too dark right now, and I could have used a light-hearted break sooner rather than later.

That’s why Netflix’s “Holidate” was the perfect break from the depressing state I found myself in. The holiday-themed romantic comedy tells the silly and somewhat outrageous story of two single strangers who decide to be each others’ dates strictly for the holidays.

Emma Roberts plays Sloane, who is constantly being set up by her mother and pitied by her taken siblings. After another dateless Christmas, Sloane meets Jackson as they are both trying to return their Christmas gifts to the same department store. Played by Luke Bracey, Jackson is a professional golfer who also had a miserable holiday — with a caricature of a casual date and her overbearing parents.

Decidedly finished with the holiday expectations placed on them while single, Sloane and Jackson turn their almost-meet cute into a business deal. Although the couple is a bit cruel to each other at first, the rest of the movie takes us through all of their holi-dates throughout the next year. The movie speeds through holidays like New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving showing the audience the brief snapshots of their lives that they experience together.

The pairing is a bit off since they refuse to communicate outside of holidays and remain very open with Sloane’s parents about the arrangement. I found myself asking, “What’s the point if everyone knows they are not really in a relationship?”

Even with a strange pacing and forced meta-conversations about rom-coms, the chemistry between the two main characters somehow works. With Bracey’s Australian accent and Roberts’s cutting sarcasm, the two make a cute couple. They’re the kind of couple that you don’t even realize until the very end that you were rooting for them the whole time.

However, this straight-to-streaming rom-com bolsters the weak plot with an unapologetically quirky cast of side-characters. Although she was raunchy and a bit irritating at points, Kristin Chenoweth’s portrayal of Sloane’s always-single Aunt Susan made me laugh out loud a few times. As the inventor of the holidate concept, Chenoweth’s character is found with a new beau slung across her arm for every single holiday. From the barely legal to the mall Santa, Susan adds bawdy charm to every situation with her inappropriate dates and comments.

“Holidate” is no classic like “Love Actually,” and it is a far cry from the Hallmark Christmas films people love to hate, but its just fine for what it is: something mind-numbingly stupid to distract us from what’s going on in the real world. And honestly, we all need a distraction, even if it’s a bit too early for all the Christmas music.