Someone explain to me what Netflix is doing with its films lately. The streaming service seems to have adopted a quantity over quality philosophy with films such as 6 Underground, Spenser Confidential, The Wrong Missing etc.

Sure, Netflix releases its share of poor shows, but they’re balanced out with watchable new releases such as The Queen’s Gambit, The Haunting of Bly Manor and Teenage Bounty Hunters. On the other hand, interesting films such as The Old Guard, Eurovision, The Irishman, Marriage Story, Birdbox, Roma, and Dolemite Is My Name are growing increasingly uncommon on the entertainment platform.

Add Holidate to the list of films you should avoid on Netflix. Written by Tiffany Paulsen, the romantic comedy holiday film digs itself into a corner early on by trying to sound self-aware about rom-coms without having anything else to fall back on. But more on that later.

In it, we meet some of the most unpleasant leads to star in a rom-com. There is Sloane (Emma Roberts), who arrives at a family Christmas party to face pressure from her mother about not being in a relationship. Here, she learns that her Aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth) is on a “holidate” with a mall Santa. The mall Santa, a stereotype of an overweight and greedy Black man, is not really a genuine romantic interest for her aunt — he’s just a convenient date for the holidays.

With no romance and no comedy, Holidate is worse than the rom-coms it mocks

Later, we meet Jackson (Luke Bracey), a tall Australian man who looks like he has no trouble developing romantic interests. His casual Christmas date takes a turn for the worse when his partner introduces him as her boyfriend to her parents. When Jackson doesn’t play along, his date seethes with fury. As viewers, instead of amusement, we feel second-hand embarrassment for her parents and Jackson.

While Jackson is returning the sweater to a department store, he meets Sloane, who explains the concept of the holidate. To keep a long and dry story short, the two decide to become each other’s holidates. Soon, the film takes us through their various experiences throughout the holidays while being each other’s pretend romantic interests.

As I mentioned earlier, Holidate tries to come across as a film that’s cleverly self-aware about rom-coms. Unfortunately, this self-awareness is skin deep. Sloane lists all the rom-com tropes she hates for Jackson, including the one where the girl rejects the seemingly perfect guy for no reason until the end of the film. Amusingly, that’s exactly what happens in Holidate.

Holidate avoids all other rom-com clichés after mocking them, yet it’s so poorly written, corny, and dull, that it has nothing to fall back on. In addition, both characters come across as unlikeable, self-involved, tone-deaf, and stupid. Some of the things Sloane says are so ignorant, that I almost felt like I was listening to a Trump supporter.

Deflating the drama further is the lack of chemistry between Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey. They barely seem to have enough between them to make us believe their characters would be friends, let alone lovers. With no romance and no comedy, Holidate is worse than the rom-coms it mocks.

Not Rated

Published in Dawn, ICON, November 15th, 2020