Holidate Review



Elizabeth Kuffour, Co-Editor-in-Chief

“Holidate” is one of Netflix’s newest additions to its extensive holiday movie lineup, released Oct. 28 for the fall and winter holiday season.

The film stars Emma Roberts as Sloane, a mid-20s woman living in Chicago. The movie begins at Sloane’s family gathering on Christmas Day, a night filled with unfortunate events. For one, Sloane’s aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth) has brought her so-called “holidate,” a temporary significant other dated for only one holiday. Sloane later finds herself at the kids’ table, hearing her little sister speak about her elementary school boyfriend. To top the night off, Sloane’s younger brother York (Jake Manley) proposes to his girlfriend Liz (Cynthy Wu). It seems Sloane is the only member of her family not in a relationship, despite the efforts of her mother Elaine (Frances Fisher) and sister Abby (Jessica Capshaw) to set her up.

We then cut to Evanston, Illinois, where Australian pro golfer Jackson, played by Luke Bracey, is spending Christmas with a girl he is casually dating. She, however, is very serious about the relationship, and her family is very serious about the holidays — when Jackson doesn’t bring a present and instead offers her $80 in cash, he is kicked out of their home.

Sloane and Jackson meet at the mall the following day while in line to return their unwanted Christmas gifts. They bond over their holiday horror stories, musing about the stress of dating in the holiday season and the pressure to find a partner. When they bump into Aunt Susan’s “holidate” from the previous night, Jackson suggests that him and Sloane become each other’s holidates to avoid the scrutiny of friends and family.

The rest of the movie follows the two of them throughout the year, meeting up on each holiday and parting ways in between. They gradually build from complete strangers to a genuine friendship, and eventually solidify their romantic relationship just before Christmas, one year after their first meeting.

I have a few key issues with this film. For one, the characters are not very likeable. During their first “holidate” on New Year’s Eve, Jackson notes how the no-strings-attached relationship they’ve begun means there’s no expectation that he must be classy or gentlemanlike, then proceeds to comment on Sloane’s body. Rather than call out his disrespectful behavior, Sloane simply takes the joke and laughs. This misogynistic dynamic appears in several places throughout the movie, often when Sloane and Jackson are discussing the stereotypical behaviors of men and women in relationships (i.e. the “crazy” girlfriend or the boyfriend who’s afraid of commitment). Not a single character bats an eye at the unhealthy reinforcement of gender roles and harmful misconceptions spread by those around them, which is not only disappointing, but unrealistic given that this is a recently-made movie.

Second, the holiday-by-holiday structure lends itself to plot gaps. It’s never really addressed what Sloane and Jackson do in between holidays. Do they ever meet in person outside of their designated “holidates”? Do they communicate over text message or phone call other than to arrange their latest holiday plans? It makes the slow burn of their relationship less believable when their development skips so many months at a time. While the chronological structure of the movie is a creative concept, the execution didn’t do the idea justice.

Lastly, and (I believe) most importantly, the movie reinforces the idea that being single is inherently bad, that you must be in a relationship to be happy or accepted. Sloane and Jackson both have the pressure of pairing off placed on them by friends and family, and instead of pushing against this, they succumb to it and resort to holi-dating. I think a more satisfying and less predictable ending to the film would’ve been Sloane becoming aware of the toxic ideals placed on her by her family and rejecting the need for a romantic relationship altogether, or at least reuniting with Jackson on her own terms and not out of circumstance.

Despite these key flaws, the movie still manages some level of imperfect charm…or maybe it’s just that Christmas magic.