Seriously, someone needs therapy.
Sloane (Emma Roberts) has a family that is completely obsessed with getting her hitched to a good guy. She insists she likes her independence, but they refuse to stop setting her up at every holiday. She discovers that her Aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth) has Holidates, guys who she sees specifically for holidays so that she doesn’t have to worry about showing up alone. At the same time, Jackson (Luke Bracey), a golf instructor from Australia, has a very bad date on Christmas and decides he doesn’t want to deal with holidays anymore, since he can’t visit his family. He and Sloane meet up between Christmas and New Years Eve and the two agree to be each other’s Holidates over the course of the next year.
While this should be a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy with a goofy premise, what sets it apart is that I have never seen a movie this mean-spirited before. Everyone in it is a sociopath. Sloane’s mother is not the stereotypical mom who wants her kids to be married, she apparently is incapable of having a different conversation with her daughter. She constantly calls her with new men and tells her that the thought of being single is equivalent to accepting dying alone from cancer. They even try to make the “someone to be there during chemo” thing into a sweet acknowledgement later in the movie, but that joke appears to have been written both by and for a person who has a head in their fridge. At the same time, everyone in her family isn’t much better, something the film drives home painfully and repeatedly. Then there’s the initial “bad date” that turns Jackson off holidays. The woman he’s with is a ridiculous exaggeration of the typical “too quick to love” character. Instead, she refuses to listen to a thing she says, acts then mentions some massively inappropriate sexual things in front of her parents. It’s like none of the people in this movie can even consider being empathetic or appropriate.
The script does have a decent amount of self-awareness when it comes to tropes or cliches, but not enough to end up avoiding any of them. The main characters keep discussing what happens in movies, including the ultimate failure of friends with benefits, but as it is a romantic comedy, you know that’s what’s going to happen by the end. The two leads have a surplus of chemistry, too, which only makes it more ridiculous when Emma Roberts says things like “no one is ever really not looking to date.” She’s pointing out that no one is ever going to immediately deny someone they’re genuinely attracted to just because they have other obligations, then spends the movie doing exactly that. It’s like Babe Ruth calling his shot, only he predicted he would hit himself in the testicles with the bat.
Overall, this is a film to skip during the holidays. All of them.
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