‘Holidate’: Netflix’s cheesy rom-com is a nothing-special occasion
The hopelessly dated film stars Emma Roberts as a woman meeting up with the same guy for all the celebrations on the calendar,
Walk with me on this one. Right over here.
Emma Roberts’ Sloane is at a family Christmas party where she has arrived ALONE, to the shock and dismay of her mother and siblings, because even though we’re in modern times, I guess it’s also 1785. Sloane’s deeply tanned and daffy Aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth) has brought a companion — a surly guy in a Santa outfit who taste-licks the cookies and wolfs down food as if he hasn’t eaten in a week.
Netflix presents a film directed by John Whitesell and written by Tiffany Paulsen. No MPAA rating. Running time: 104 minutes. Available Wednesday on Netflix.
“Isn’t he great?” says Aunt Susan. “I met him at the mall. You’d be surprised at the quality of men you can meet at the mall. … Relax, it’s not like I’m going to marry him. He’s just my holidate. … I date someone for the holiday. No commitment.”
And that’s your setup for the Netflix original movie “Holidate,” an excruciatingly cheesy, hopelessly dated, profoundly unfunny and tone-deaf romantic comedy about an intelligent, hard-working, likable and lovely woman who enters into an arrangement with a handsome stranger by which they’ll be each other’s “holidate” for everything from Valentine’s Day to St. Patrick’s Day to the Fourth of July, but never actually act on the fake relationship and just go their merry, separate ways until Labor Day or Halloween or whatever.
That’s it. That’s the movie. If you don’t know where this story will go, I’d like to set you up on a date with Aunt Susan. She doesn’t expect much in the way of … anything.
(Programming note: “Holidate,” we’re told, is set in the Chicago area. Aunt Susan makes a reference to the Art Institute, we see an overhead shot of the green Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day, a few glimpses of familiar downtown streets — stuff like that. In reality it was filmed in Georgia, at such famous Chicago locales as Berkeley Lake, the Gwinnett Place Mall and Sprouts Farmers Market in Peachtree Corners.)
Cut to the mall — the mall is a big deal in this movie — where Sloane has a meet-cute with a hunky Australian dude named Jackson (Luke Bracey, looking like a lost Hemsworth brother) in the gift return line. As Sloane and Jackson wander about the 1995-level crowded mall, Sloane introduces Jackson to the concept of the holidate — and boom, Jackson asks Sloane to join him for New Year’s Eve, because, like Sloane, he’s not into casual dating and not in a place to pursue a real relationship.
Off we go on a medley of holidates, with Sloane and Jackson exchanging allegedly witty banter, throwing down the drinks and cheerfully mocking other people — all in settings where all the extras look exactly like extras, and the sound mix and production design is so subpar it never feels as if we’re in a real nightclub or Irish pub. Meanwhile, Sloane’s meddling mother (Frances Fisher) is a real hoot cause she doesn’t know how to properly work the FaceTime (oh, those seniors!), and, just for good measure, we get a running-into-the-ex-at-the-store scene directly ripped off from “When Harry Met Sally…”
But wait, there’s less.
Crazy Aunt Susan shows up for an Easter party dressed as a Playboy bunny. Sloane and Jackson go out to a Mexican bar on Cinco de Mayo (a major holiday for Caucasians) and get hammered on shots. Aunt Susan brings a creepy stoner called “Uncle Sam” as her holidate to a Fourth of July barbecue. One begins to resent the calendar and all those special get-together days. (And before it’s all over, you just know someone’s gonna grab a microphone in a public setting and make a heartfelt speech. Sigh.)
You’d think something so tired and corny would be at least sweet and sentimental, but “Holidate” earns its TV-MA rating with lots of frank sex talk, liberal use of the f-bomb, a comedy gag involving a severed finger and even an extended sequence in which Sloane is in a race to get out of her complicated Halloween getup and make it to the bathroom before she has an unfortunate accident. “Oh Jesus F- - - Jesus, don’t let this happen!” cries Sloane. “Don’t let me be the girl who s---- her pants!”
Yipes. I think it was a deleted scene from a holidate-type movie starring Emma’s Aunt Julia, “Pretty Woman.”
Or maybe not.