Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Holidate: Movie Review

A romantic comedy missing that crucial element of humour.
Emma Roberts has built herself a nice career. A long string of comedies – some hits, some nots, but peppers them with roles that have a real bite to them like Scream Queens and American Horror Story. Such that when she returns to a typical romantic comedy, it feels like home. There’s a comfort level to casting Roberts and Luke Bracey in a holiday-themed romantic comedy, and that’s why Holidate will get its audience.   2020

Directed by: John Whitesell

Screenplay by: Tiffany Paulsen

Starring: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey

It doesn’t necessarily deserve that audience because it took the premise – an almost-30 woman who’s frustrated with her family’s constant nagging of the lack of her love life so she agrees to platonically date an equally-frustrated man on all major and small holidays without strings and benefits – and then added nothing more to the premise. Because apparently two very attractive people who are obviously perfect for each other but are oblivious to the sexual chemistry between them is all you need to sell a movie.

The lack of comedy is a major let down. Roberts’ Sloane and Bracey’s Jackson are played straight, which is fair as they are (or at least Sloane is) relatable and understandable people. The comedy should probably come from the shenanigans around them: Sloane’s mother who is very insistent that Sloane is wasting her life because she’s not currently in a serious relationship, Sloane’s to-be-sister-in-law who is so straight-laced she can’t swear, Sloane’s brother-in-law who’s a loving husband and father (like, huh? I think the writers thought that was so ridiculous it was funny), and Sloane’s sister who like her mother insists Sloane is wasting her life because she’s not currently in a serious relationship, oh and Sloane’s aunt who is an alcoholic, sex-obsessed serial dater (she’s awful so I’m trying to forget her).

The characters aren’t too extreme (save for Kristen Chenoweth’s Aunt Susan), that for the most part Sloane’s family is relatively normal and relatable. That also means there’s very little built in humour, and very few laughs to be found at all. My only laugh came courtesy of a young niece of Sloane’s who, after the adults discussed the importance of not slut-shaming, declared she wants to be a whore when she grows up.

The film also seemed to be very unsure of what rating and target audience to go for. The “jokes” are all R-rated with a ton of profanity and sex-based humour, and they followed that up with zero nudity and zero sex. There was a scene in which Sloane’s dress apparently fell down but the cut around it was so awkward that all you notice is the editing and lack of continuity of what’s happening in the scene. Visually, it’s a very PG movie, but the dialogue around it is not.

I liked the character of Sloane. Her romantic backstory is nicely done, and there is a great moment where she does some quick math on her fingers after meeting an ex with his new girlfriend. I had no problem relating to her, and yelling at her when it was time to make a move. Jackson is less understandable. All I have determined is he’s single because he’s sexist. Seriously, if the lack of jokes, and un-funny family members, and awkward editing hasn’t turned you off yet, the leading man who the audience is supposed to root for has some very misguided conceptions of what human females are like.

Holidate has some good writing for the romantic comedy plot, leading to a satisfying conclusion, but the lack of comedy made it drag, and frankly 2020 has offered us some better romantic comedies, so I’m going to recommend those instead:

  A Simple Wedding - Fresh, joyful romantic comedy, consistently funny and heartwarming.
  Straight Up - Thoughtful, tender, and absolutely hilarious examination of love and sexuality.
  The Broken Hearts Gallery - Genuinely funny and real empathy for the characters.