Written by: Tiffany Paulsen
Starring: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, Andrew Bachelor, Jessica Capshaw, Manish Dayal
When families gather for the holidays, the young adults always have to come prepared with the possibility of being asked about their love life. Whether or not they have a significant other seems to matter to older relatives, which makes it awkward if someone continually comes home with no one. Holidate composes the dream scenario to have someone for each of these occasions with no commitment. A bit shallow at times, but a winning performance by its lead actor makes this by-the-numbers story very enjoyable.
After her younger brother proposes to his girlfriend on Christmas, Sloane (Emma Roberts) realizes all eyes will be on her and her love life. She meets Jackson (Luke Bracey) in a shopping mall where they concoct the idea of being each other’s holidate. This entails being the partner for each holiday to avoid the horror of having to celebrate it alone.
I have been lucky to avoid the circumstance Sloane finds herself in because it puts you in the position to explain why things are not working in the romance department. For one, it should not be anybody’s business but you cannot exactly tell your aunt or grandmother to go kick rocks. Sloane’s idea for being a holidate pairing with Jackson serves both of their needs, as she needs a warm body as a stand-in and he desires someone he can celebrate the holidays with who does not see it as a sign of him wanting to actually date them. While one would think this would just apply to the holidays where people gather with their families but it extended into Cinco De Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, and even Mother’s Day weirdly enough. Certainly not the conventional setup but it plays with the charm of the movie.
With each holiday that passes, they build a stronger rapport with each other and they might even be confused for an actual couple. Their original agreement forbade any sexual benefits being involved but if you’ve seen any romantic comedy, you just know this idea will not last very long. Even with some holidays being silly for them to come together, it does raise the importance of having someone to share experiences with. They do not necessarily need to be a significant other or someone to spend the rest of your life with, but going to a bar on St. Patrick’s Day feels a bit more entertaining, and worthwhile when you’re with someone you can drink alongside. Experiences are meant to be shared with others. It’s very much how humans get hardwired, and even with the oddities of their setup, it makes for those holidays not to be filled with dread in fear of receiving those piercing questions. Having someone who makes you happy certainly beats having no one at all.
The success of Holidate begins and ends with Emma Roberts, as she puts on a clinic right from the start of being a romantic comedy lead. Even when the script lets her down in moments, she certainly elevated it because her character never lost her likability. The reasons why she wants this arrangement remains clear and she hits each moment in stride. Sloane has no problem speaking her mind, especially for the individuals who want to comment on her romantic life. It’s a character that fits so well with what plays to her strengths and she takes advantage of it.
As a romantic comedy, it certainly hits all the beats and tropes one would expect with some of its more glaring faults coming when it shifts to the third act with its plot contrivances. However, as with any film within this genre, many faults can be overcome if an engaging couple gets established right in the center of it all, which Holidate manages to accomplish. Several scenes provided moments of genuine laughter that reached more than just a chuckle, as the film went farther than I thought it would with its comedy.
Pair up for a lovely and entertaining holiday romantic comedy with Holidate. While it can be considered a Christmas movie with the most foundational moments coming in the specific holiday season, it gives a proper shout out to most major American holidays in a fun and creative way. Through it all, the film speaks to the importance of having someone to share these days of celebration together and does so in a manner not many have thought of. Emma Roberts serves as the anchor and foundation of this movie and dutifully delivers.