John Whitesell’s Holidate (2020) is perfect for anyone seeking movies that remind them of Hallmark, especially if you are searching for something slightly more mature. This movie follows a year in the lives of Jackson (Luke Bracey) and Sloane (Emma Roberts), two strangers that agree to be each other’s non-sexual, non-romantic dates during holidays. Think friends with benefits, without any benefits.
If you have ever seen a movie or read a book with this description, you know how this will play out. But nevertheless, these characters agree to see each other strictly on holidays as to avoid being classified as friends and having that escalate into anything further. The reasoning behind this is so that Jackson does not get trapped in a committed relationship, and so that Sloane can avoid the constant harassment from her family to get a boyfriend.
Overall, it is an original idea; it had the potential to truly succeed. However, the quickness of each holiday — as the movie tries to squeeze in as many as possible — makes it difficult for the audience to connect to the characters. It would have been nice to spend more time on the major holidays (and even non-festive times), instead of using so much screen time on the minor ones. This way, the audience can see more into the characters’ lives instead of just watching them party their way through the festivities.
However, the biggest reason why this movie has its moments of success is due to the chemistry between the two leads. Bracey and Roberts are both talented actors that play off each other well, no matter the quality of writing. Even during the most uncanny scenes, their portrayals make the writing slightly more realistic and comedic.
I should stress that it is perfectly acceptable for someone to not be in a relationship during the holidays, even though this movie makes it seem like nothing else matters. In fact, most of the holidays shown could have been attended with friends, though it does not seem like either of the leads have many. The only “friends” shown are Sloane’s sister and sister-in-law and Jackson’s coworker. It is understandable considering that both of the main characters are recovering from heartbreak and use this scheme as a way to feel less lonely without having the relationship pressures of “how serious would this make us?”
One of the biggest problems with this movie is the fact that Sloane’s family knows about the “holidate” premise. If the general idea was to start being each other’s dates in order for Sloane’s family to stop pestering her about her love life — or lack thereof — then what is the point of them knowing? After all, nothing has changed and Sloane still received plenty of judgment from everyone in her family. It would have been a smoother concept if the movie was Sloane and Jackson pretending to be dating during the major holidays and having that transition into a real relationship.
There were also plenty of side stories referenced but never fully addressed, or others that were solved way too easily. This movie focuses on Sloane and Jackson’s relationship and has everything revolving around it. Though Holidate does bring up smaller conflicts in the lives of Sloane’s family, the audience never gets to see how they play out. They are simply brought up during one holiday and fixed by the next. Some of those conflicts could have occupied more screen time and made the movie overall more enjoyable.
I must admit that I truly did enjoy this film. Overlooking some second-hand embarrassment, scenes written just to fill screen time and some questionable plot holes, I am a sap for rom-coms of this sort. This film will get you into the Christmas spirit and is perfect to watch as a family (assuming everyone in the family is over the age of eighteen, according to the TV-MA rating). There are no doubts that there are scenes that call for an audible “aww” and some scenes that really will have you laughing with tears. By the end, I was pleasantly surprised by how much it lifted my spirits, cheesiness and predictability included.