CHENNAI: You’ve heard of blind dates. Well, now Netflix is trying to foist something new on unwitting viewers searching for something seasonal to watch — the “holidate.”
With a screenplay by Tiffany Paulsen and directed by John Whitesell, this straight-to-streaming romcom is a commentary on modern life, with characters going through a whirlwind of difficult deadlines, broken relationships, gnawing loneliness and commitment fears.
Sloane (Emma Roberts) is the ultimate cool girl, a Hollywood trope that seems to be going strong. She makes a convenient pact with Jackson (Luke Bracey), whose Australian drawl signifies his laidback charm, after the pair break it off with their respective former partners.
Tired of being a repeat singleton at her family gatherings — and fed up with her mother, who is forever trying to play matchmaker — Sloane jumps at the idea of a holidate, suggested by her aunt Susan (Kristen Chenoweth).
Opportunity knocks on New Year’s Eve when Sloane runs into handsome Jackson at a queue in a mall. Each is grumbling about the misery of being alone on special occasions. They look at one another and agree to work out an arrangement — a platonic partnership in place of a romantic liaison.
The film follows the pair as they show up to events together over a calendar year, from Valentine’s Day to St. Patrick’s Day to Mother’s Day and eventually Christmas, with a few other festive occasions thrown in for good measure.
The rules of the game begin to change, however, and Sloane is left confused, using her older sister Abby (Jessica Capshaw) as a sounding board while Jackson is treated to not-so-wise words by his serial-dater friend Neil (Andrew Bachelor).
Heavy dialogue and an unwieldy pace ensure that the rather unfunny “Holidate” never takes off, and there are no real surprises in the plot, with the development of their romance a clear, foregone conclusion.
There is no bated breath and no ‘will-they-won’t-they’ tension that even the most cringe-worthy of romcoms have managed to attain. The audience knows where the camaraderie of the lead characters is headed from the get-go, but it certainly does a fair job at chasing away the blues in a pandemic-hit world where socializing is so difficult.