REVIEW: Holidate

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Holidate: the latest—whitest—Christmas romcom that nobody asked for?

Every year, Netflix churns out more festive films with apparently less thought going into each. The latest addition promises a higher standard of performance from big names like Emma Roberts and Kristin Chenoweth, entertaining content for adult watchers (rated 15), and a fun exploration of holidays other than Christmas. What we receive, however, is sub-par acting, cringey and out-of-place sexual dialogue, and a choppy mash-up of dates that make the whole film feel like a romantic montage, which really could have lasted for five minutes.

Throughout the film’s entirety, it seems that writer Tiffany Paulsen is torn between destroying rom-com stereotypes and submitting to them completely; Sloane (Roberts) defies her family’s expectations by staying single and focusing on her work, yet she is desperately unhappy, “numbing the pain with a vodka”, and relies on constant validation from Jackson (Lacey), a stranger who becomes her ‘platonic’ date for all holiday. The leading man brings nothing new to the table, either: a commitment-phobe with outdated views on acceptable female behaviour and a classic, ‘my body is a temple’ mindset.

With the intention of granting audiences something new, the film focuses on as many major and minor holidays as possible, ultimately giving very little time to any of them; hurried interactions and choppy pacing, paired with poor dialogue, allow few opportunities to engage with the characters and leave viewers disorientated, as though having actually experienced 365 days with few memories to show for it.

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Holidate teases a glimmer of interesting material with questionable parenting, revelations of infidelity, and blatant secrecy between couples, but all are swept under the carpet. While these issues could have driven the plot into a more sophisticated and engaging territory, they are hardly mentioned and inconsequential to the predictable love story.

In 2020, viewers expect more diversity on their screens, with wider representation for people of colour and the LGBTQ community. It becomes clear within the first few minutes that this was not a priority for Holidate. Instead, the audience is held hostage by a noticeably white, heteronormative cast, with only three people of colour having any dialogue and each falling into thoughtless, supporting cast stereotypes of their own: the prudish goody-two-shoes, the more boring love interest, and the cringey friend, who drags the film even further into the past with a non-ironic, “Wakanda forever.”

Costume design and makeup stand out as the film’s (perhaps only) crowning glory, providing much inspiration for the viewer’s festive wardrobe. Besides this and some eye-catching neon lighting, amusing musical choices, and heart-warming snowy shots, there are a handful of funny moments that save ‘Holidate’ from being an entirely dull watch.

If Friends with Benefits (2011) or No Strings Attached (2011) were Christmas films, what would they look like? Realistically, nothing new or intelligent. For Christmas-lovers who can see past non-ironic uses of, “Nailed it” in 2020, it’s an enjoyable—not so family-friendly—watch. Otherwise, perhaps save those one-hundred minutes for literally anything else.

Image Credit: Netflix