Holidate: when appearances don’t matter
Holidate is almost not a Christmas romcom. Released in 2020, it comes across as a trite attempt at romance and a predictable story that is almost not worth the watch. But if you stick around to the end, it might surprise you. Or not.
Holidate – Premise
Sloane has spent the last however many holidays trying to dodge her family’s questions about her love life. Jackson, an Australian man away from home, always finds himself in awkward holiday situations. After one such disaster, they meet by chance and, fed up with being single for the holidays, they agree to become each other’s platonic plus-ones for holidays all year long but end up catching feelings along the way.
Fake dating: the best of all the tropes.
For those of you who are not familiar with Fake Dating and/or haven’t been reading fanfiction obsessively since you were eleven (which is probably way too early, but we’re not here to discuss the writer’s childhood trauma), let me explain what Fake Dating is.
As the words suggest, Fake Dating is when two characters in a story pretend to be together and try to convince the people around them that they are for whatever reason. In this specific case, Sloane (played by Emma Roberts) is hoping that it will get her family off her back while Jackson (played by Luke Bracey) hopes to have better holiday celebrations without the expectations of a relationship.
Holidate makes a bit of a variation on the theme. Sloane and Jackson are, in a way, faking being together with the understanding that their actual relationship is completely platonic, but instead of fooling Sloane’s family, it is the rest of the world that they’re making appearances for. Sloane’s family, in fact, finds out about the arrangement pretty early on but to strangers and acquaintances, Sloane and Jackson being together means that they don’t end up being the odd people out at parties where couples are expected to perform happiness and perfection.
The holiday RomCom of it all
What is it that makes this movie a holiday rom-com? In truth, very little.
You see, the events of the story do begin on Christmas – actually, a couple of days after Christmas if we want to be exact – and they also end on Christmas but the bulk of the story takes place in the various holidays between the two.
Furthermore, the movie tends to lean pretty heavily on the com part of romcom. Our protagonists don’t start developing feelings for each other until later in the movie and most of the action we see is geared quite clearly toward comedy. Why watch it and talk about it now then?
You know, every holiday rom-com ends with a big romantic gesture on Christmas day and this movie is no different so, by those standards, it qualifies as a holiday rom-com, even if just barely.
The story of how they met
Now that we’ve established that this movie does have to do with Christmas, let’s get into it.
Sloane and Jackson, as we already said, meet right after a couple of terrible Christmases for both of them. Sloane, hopelessly single, is either relegated to the kids’ table or questioned about her love life relentlessly every holiday (I personally think the kids’ table is an awesome excuse not to have to talk about your life with relatives you only see once a year so I can’t relate with Sloane’s discomfort here), while Jackson always ends up in the homes of his very recent dates and therefore in awkward expectations for the holidays. The two meet while returning unwanted Christmas gifts and immediately seem to clash due to pointing out each other’s lameness in public.
Why am I explaining this? It’s essential for this review that you know that Jackson and Sloane are both very unlikeable people. Truly, I’ve never watched a romantic movie that hated its own protagonists this much.
An unbearable bargain
I went into watching this movie fully expecting to hate it. I mostly did.
Everything from the premise to the look of the poster suggested that it would be a boring, unoriginal, typical holiday movie where the structure of “Protagonists Hate Each Other – Protagonists Get To Know and Start Liking Each Other – One Of Them F*cks Up – Big Gesture Begging For Forgiveness – Happy Christmas Moment” would not be subverted at all. Plus, I saw the trailer and expected a very low-level comedy.
Holidate is exactly like that. I want you to go into watching this movie with the awareness that this is exactly what you’re gonna get. And yet, I think this movie does one thing right that no other romantic comedy has ever been able to do.
You see, because Jackson and Sloane both get into the deal with the conviction that they do not like each other, that they are not interested in impressing each other, and have no romantic intention whatsoever to end up with each other, they tend to display the worst of their personality and behaviours. Slone and Jackson are terrible for each other in this regard because they literally bring the worst out of one another.
This is what makes the movie great.
Don’t get me wrong, this movie can be disgusting. The comedy is vulgar, crass, barely even funny at all, and I had to grit my teeth to get through it. It tries way too hard and it does not land… But!
What most romantic comedies botch is the Getting to Know Each Other sequence. Because the main point of most romantic comedies is usually about the characters getting together, the reason why they love each other and how they get from strangers to lovers tends to be trite and a little glossed over. But because Holidate wants really hard to be a comedy and tries to do that with the most disgusting of methods, we end up seeing the characters in very vulnerable positions, which they also get to see of each other.
The result is an actual bond that makes sense. We see two individuals showing each other the worst of their habits and flaws and still fall in love because there’s an understanding that they’re being real with each other and by being real they’re putting themselves in a position that allows the other inside in a significant and vulnerable way.
By being a crass, tasteless comedy, Holidate brings to the screen an exaggerated disgust that circles right back into humanity.
Putting oneself out there
When you meet someone with the intent of a romantic relationship, you always try to put your best foot forward. The first few dates are spent prettying yourself up, choosing the most flattering outfits, wearing a little more makeup than you would usually wear. In brief, one tries to look their best.
This leaves anyone who decides to be vulnerable enough to let someone in with the fear that the worst parts of them will end up scaring the other away. You convince yourself that you have to “trap” the other in a relationship by convincing them that you only have good qualities because by the time you show that, actually, you’re a flawed human being, it’s too late for them to back out.
What is more romantic than showing someone the absolute worst parts of yourself, the things not even the closest of friends are allowed to see, and still being chosen? I can think of nothing else.
This might not have been the point of Holidate. I’m almost 100% sure that this outcome was completely accidental and that most people who watched this movie (which is rated quite low on most movie databases, by the way) did not see it the way I do.
For its many faults – and there are a bunch -, Holidate manages to really be as romantic as it wants to be, but for completely the wrong reasons.
I wish I could say that I hated Holidate. I hated parts of it, other parts were hard to get through or just boring, but the tenderness of these people ending up loving each other for the worst of their flaws is just incomparable. I’m sold.
And listen, I’m not saying this is a good movie, it’s really not. But maybe, just maybe, romantic comedies could learn something from the core of what it could have been rather than what it ended up being.
Would I watch it again? Probably not. The comedy really is as bad as I made it sound but it’s worth the one watch and it does have the very optimistic message that we should stop trying so hard because we’ve been setting ourselves up for failure when really, everyone is the worst and we still manage to love each other.
Have you watched Holidate? Did you like it, did you not? Did this review change the way you looked at the movie? Answer these questions and let me know your thoughts in the comments below! And make sure to follow us on social media to keep up with the latest updates!
1993, bisexual. Split between drawing and writing. Too many ideas not to waste a few. Amateur translator.