Finding love during the holidays is a classic plot for romance films. The media rarely seems to celebrate spending time with loved ones or enjoying your own company, unless it is with a significant other by your side. Add comedy and cynicism to that, and you have the premise of “Holidate,” a Netflix film released on Oct. 28, 2020.
The film is predictable in every way that its audience can expect a romantic comedy film to turn out. “Holidate” hones in on the development of lead character Sloane, played by Emma Roberts. Sloane is constantly bombarded by pressure from her family to bring a boyfriend home for the holidays.
Along comes Jackson, played by Luke Bracey, who encounters difficulties with casual dating. Both seeking to bring a judgment and commitment-free companion to each of their holiday family gatherings, the two form an agreement to be one another’s “holidate,” a punny way of saying “plus one.” This sets the stage for a year’s lineup of dates for Sloane and Jackson, attending New Year’s parties, Easter brunches and sharing Cinco de Mayo drinks together.
How does the rest of the film play out? The audience can already guess.
With such a predictable plotline to “Holidate,” there is not much in the movie that can surprise its viewers. However, what can be deemed shocking is the regressive, almost childish themes that inspire the premise of the film, such as the absolute necessity to have a partner.
Sloane’s family troubles themselves a great deal with her love life, constantly pressuring her to reach out to men or attempting to set her up on dates. Sloane carries herself in a bitter way that further solidifies the film’s emphasis on the need for a romantic partner. Rather than standing her ground and finding love in a more natural environment, as a modern heroine might, she instead gives way to familial pressure.
Sloane’s choice to secure a “holidate” contributes to the romanticization of partners and relationships, which can be beautiful, invigorating and a positive experience. This ideal also continues to trump celebrating independence and self-priority.
Knowing that today’s society has made strides toward recognizing the importance of self-love, self-care and independence, viewers could have hoped to find this 2020 film to be reflective of such standards. “Holidate” does the opposite, feeding into the notion that people are incapable of being content on their own and must seek a partner by any means necessary.
Sexism is yet another prevalent theme in the film. Disappointingly, it is not disputed or proven wrong by the characters, but rather glorified and given justification. Generalized, offensive statements are woven throughout scenes, speaking power to claims that “women are clingy” or “all men panic and flee.”
The script of “Holidate” disregards the strides once taken to debunk such archaic assumptions. The agreement between Sloane and Jackson to be commitment-free seems to make them think that disrespect and degradation are acceptable, as they make crude comments on one another’s looks and genders.
Sexism is the film’s foundation for incorporating humor. However, it is done in such poor taste that it simply leaves the audience feeling secondhand embarrassment from the dialogue and frustration of having socially reverted back to old ways of thinking.
To add insult to injury, Roberts starred in the 2019 film, “Paradise Hills,” generally known as a film that empowers and highlights feminism, quite contrary to the actress’s role in “Holidate.”
If one can manage to look past the consistent jabs aimed toward the stereotypes of men, women and their choice of being single or in a relationship, the basic plot of “Holidate” is standard enough to be enjoyed and related to a younger, open-minded audience. The appearance of Broadway’s own, Kristin Chenoweth, may be an incentive to “Wicked” fans, as well.
If these saving graces are not enough to rope you in, you may want to pencil in a “holidate” with another movie.