Christmas movies are a unique breed. There are the ones with their sentimental tone and perfectly fallen snow that would be unwatchable at any other time of year but come Christmas-time you are sold. Then there’s ones whose slapstick comedy is downright ridiculous. Basically, Christmas season is where any movie is possible.
The premise of Holidate certainly falls into the former: a woman who’s sick of being single on holidays and a guy who’s done with the pressure that Christmas and New Year’s place on relationships, decide to become each others platonic plus ones to every holiday event for a year. Of course, they catch real feelings for each other along the way, and have to decide whether they’ll become the next cliché.
Starring Emma Roberts (Little Italy, Wild Child) and Australia’s Luke Bracey (Point Break, The Best of Me) Holidate should have been a guaranteed crowd pleaser – Roberts acts as the audience who’d likely watch this film, and Bracey fits the mold of the likeable Aussie hunk who can woo her with his accent. There’s enough bankable charm to make Holidate fly… but it really doesn’t.
Where it could have found a sweet spot between a A Christmas Prince and Office Christmas Party, Holidate presents itself as being closer to the former and then delivers a cheaper version of the latter.
Perhaps trying to undo our expectations of a romantic comedy, Holidate takes what could have been a light-hearted reflection on the messiness of relationships and holidays, and injects it with jarringly crude humour and stereotypical suggestions about men and women’s commitment to relationships and single people’s secret misery.
There’s a lot of room for a good, funny story about being single over the holidays and why there can be pressure around that and the feelings of loneliness it can prompt in people, but telling one doesn’t seem to be the goal of Holidate.
For the Australian audience, Bracey keeping his Aussie accent also oddly makes the movie less convincing.
In the few moments where he drops a Hallmark-like line, it feels like he’s struggling to believe the words he’s saying, and on the whole it’s difficult to reconcile the character you’re seeing on screen with the Australian men you really know. Where he could’ve been charming they’ve made him crass, and where he could’ve offered authenticity they’ve gone with ill-timed gags. It’s like a conversation with a teen realising they have feelings, who drops a toilet joke before anyone notices they said something sincere.
While it fits with its premise, Holidate also assumes your ability to enjoy significant celebrations comes down to your marital status, and it never resolves that belief.
It’s true it can be hard to be the only one un-coupled around a table of love struck newlyweds and incessant daters, but Holidate puts an unbalanced amount of weight on the importance of who you come to a party with versus what you’re meant to be celebrating when you get there.
Instead of watching Holidate, do anything else.
Holidate is streaming on Netflix now, and comes with a warning about sexual references and crude humour.