Director: John Whitesell
Producer: McG, Mary Viola
Writer: Tiffany Paulsen
Cast: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey
Streaming Platform: Netflix
Writing somewhat critically about rom-coms always makes me feel like I am carrying a sword to a pillow fight. Attempting to stash it back into the scabbard is not an option. And so unsheathed swords must, regretfully, pummel Holidate.
This is Jackson (Luke Bracey) and Sloan’s (Emma Roberts) tried-and-tested-now-fully-infested tale of lovers not knowing they are in love till it is proclaimed in public. They are holidates- dates just for the holiday, but the catch here is that they decide early on to not sleep with each other. At first I found this odd, I thought the idea of a holidate hinges heavily on the possibility of langurous and loopy holiday sex. But it seems that the loneliness epidemic of adulthood is content with merely having clothed company.
The idea of opposites attract is given a new twist here- Jackson is from the land-down-under, Australia, and Sloan is as American as they come. Their homes are literally pointing in opposite directions- upside down to the other. But barring this and the accent, the differences are superficial- she loves chocolate, he loves kale smoothies, he loves golf, she makes fun of it. (I love how eating chocolate on Valentine’s Day is now considered a character description. It’s as banal as trying to figure out Alia Bhatt’s character in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania from the fact that she separates her peas from her paneer.)
To be fair, this film also inverts the traditional structure of a rom-com — where it is the middle where the lovers struggle with love that becomes agonizing, bookended by a charming beginning and a charmed ending.
Here, the beginning is quite bad, the acting, dialogues, and staging too theatrical, and the ending as unoriginal and pat as you can imagine. Within moments of being introduced to Jackson, he is getting a blowjob with an expression like he is being tranquilized. Sloan’s first words are “Fucking holidays” as she butts out her cigarette. The performance becomes farical too quickly, but within twenty minutes you are soaked into its mediocrity.
I did had some fun in between, where like an extended cut of ‘Offo’ from 2 States without the shower sex, the film jumps from one holiday to the next: New Years to Valentine’s Day to Saint Patrick’s Day to Easter to Mother’s Day to Fourth of July to Halloween to Thanksgiving. It’s a testament to the film’s thin success that the repetitiveness of the holidays doesn’t get annoying- perhaps it is the tension of the leads not having had sex yet that keeps one on tenterhooks- who knows?
The clay clitoris, and the marijuana dazed missing finger are some nice flourishes in an otherwise tepid goings-on, including the eventual, very generic, shadows and golden-silhouette sex. I don’t understand why India has decided to put this on the Trending Tab on Netflix. Do we really like vicariously experiencing sexless courting? It is fitting perhaps that A Suitable Boy is trending right next to it.
This paragraph contains mild spoilers. I think what I am most pissed off about is the awful representation of jealousy here- such a human feeling that crumbles you with you having zero control over it. Here it’s cavalier. A wife kisses a stranger, and beyond the husband’s initial shock and a later montage with them being happy together, nothing is shown. Both Jackson and Sloan are so obvious about their feelings and yet they refuse to relent, preferring to soak in jealousy as if it’s a right of passage to get to the climactic kiss. I get that films like this exist solely to mine vicarious, unrealized pleasures from, but beyond a point I can’t help but scream, “Grow Up!” at the genre I will, alas, continue to defend to death.