Fresh off of Halloween and on the way to more family holidays, Netflix is bound to cash in on the dearth of end of the year films with a number of seasonally themed features.
Their newest hit, which has topped the streaming service’s most-watched charts in the United States since its debut two weeks ago, is an objectively bad movie that knows its limitations and makes the most of its flaws, creating the must-see, fun terrible film of the year.
Director John Whitesell’s Holidate stars Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey as a pair of strangers tired of being alone for the holidays who decide to pair up as platonic plus-ones for every imaginable celebration throughout the year.
It’s a classic setup, but Holidate is more like a naughty Hallmark movie, sappy sweet and filled with traditional hate-to-like-to-love romance, but with implied sexuality and cursing one would never find on the family friendly television channel.
The script from Tiffany Paulsen is written in such a way where the end is always in sight from the beginning and there’s lots of overt meta-textual commentary about movie romances from Roberts’ Sloane lamenting how women are never actually taking a break from dating when the perfect guy comes along to a spoof of the iconic lift scene in Dirty Dancing.
Roberts comes across as just likeable enough to root for, but also nails an obscenely selfish streak that her Sloane isn’t totally aware she has but that everyone around her resents.
She has decent chemistry with Australian actor Bracey, who’s charming enough for the role of Jackson – the titular “holidate” – but lacks a broader charisma to keep audiences intrigued by what’s going on in his character’s life outside of his budding relationship with Sloane.
Frances Fisher is exceptionally abrasive in the best way as Sloane’s overbearing mother dead set on finding her daughter a husband as quickly as possible. She takes the direct dialogue and gives it a sharp twinge that twists the knife on Sloane’s loneliness while still reflecting the modicum of affection she clearly has for her daughter.
Tony Award winner Kristen Chenoweth delivers her most audacious performance to date, relishing every opportunity to be as naughty as she can as Sloane’s promiscuous aunt, Susan. It’s a turn that’s train-wreck waiting to happen, cringeworthy but in a way that audiences can’t help but keep watching as their bodies recoil away from the screen.
Holidate relishes any opportunity to take a holiday and make it insufferable for Sloane and Jackson as a way to force them together, be it a nauseating wedding dance to “I’ll Make Love to You” from Boyz II Men to implying the most disgusting possible end to a Halloween party. By pushing them together in these outlandish ways, Paulsen and Whitesell follow the exact rom-com motifs they have Sloane repeatedly mock in a meta-textual way that doesn’t quite hit the mark.
A second Holidate film is already in the works as Netflix seeks to capitalize on the breakout success of this feature, with Paulsen already lining out the plotline based on revelations from the film’s credits.
It’s a smart business venture for the streaming service and a welcome sight for fans of Holidate, which should be increasingly popular amid a holiday season where more and more people will be home longing for the comfort of friends and family amid a resurgent pandemic.
The film is certainly geared for couples cozying up near the fireplace on a cold holiday evening and Holidate is probably worth giving a casual chance for fans of naughty humor and the rom-com genre as a whole.