Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey are deserving of a much better film than Holidate, a predictable seasonal stocking filler with no surprises under the tree.
Emma Roberts is Hollywood royalty in a roundabout way, so you’d think she’d star in better movies. No such luck with Netflix’s new seasonal rom-com Holidate, in which she plays Sloane, a Chicagoan singleton with a view of romance informed by the kind of mediocre romantic comedies she doesn’t realize she’s starring in.
The title comes from the idea of having a trusty date for the holidays and family get-togethers that can be charming for the duration and then dismissed for the quiet months. It’s a good idea to keep nagging parents at bay, which is why it seems so attractive to Sloane, whose ridiculously overbearing mother – even by the usual standards of these films – won’t stop harping on about her being single. It’s an equally attractive idea to her plus-one beau, Jackson (Luke Bracey), a man-child golfer whose view of romance is informed by the kind of old-school sexism that once defined movies very much like this.
Holidate isn’t playing that up for irony, nor is it any kind of throwback – it’s a straight-faced rom-com that takes great pleasure in Sloane becoming the kind of archetype that litters the movies she so energetically mocks. When she and Jackson extend their arrangement beyond New Year’s Eve to all holidays, including days which typically wouldn’t require a swanky soiree but nonetheless make an excuse for one anyway, it’s obvious to everyone where this story is going. On the way, it hits all the beats it pretends it might avoid; anyone playing Rom-Com Bingo will have a Full House before they’re halfway through the 100-ish-minute runtime. Needless to say, it feels longer than that.
This is no fault of the leads, who’re evidently better than the two-dimensional lookers they’ve been tasked with playing. Roberts is charming and funny; Bracey gives the impression that there’s a little more behind his eyes than Tiffany Paulsen’s script lets him reveal. Together they have believable chemistry and could easily shoulder a more interesting film.
Holidate, though, isn’t interested in being interesting – it’s a stocking filler with the same appeal as a Christmas jumper; you shove it on because it’s comforting and it’s the right time of year for it, but you wouldn’t leave the house with it on. Anyone inclined to have a giggle at adults saying distinctly adult things in front of children – a gag repeated several times – and liable to get a little misty-eyed at two implausibly good-looking people finally realizing they can be implausibly good-looking together will be well-served here. Anyone else would be better off looking for love elsewhere.