Holidate, by Albert W. Vogt III

What a week. Last Wednesday my area had to deal with Tropical Storm Eta. As one who has endured many hurricane seasons in the Sunshine State, I did not take its approach as seriously as I probably should have in hindsight. Such a mistake has seemingly cost me my car. In the proceeding days, I cleaned up around the house from the mess caused by nearly a foot and a half of water that surged over the seawall and flooded my bedroom. Here’s to coastal living. And then, for no reason at all, I decided to try a gymnastics move that ended in me possibly tearing ligaments in my knee. Hence I am hobbled, both physically and geographically, but at least I was able to make it to Mass yesterday. I disappointedly could not, though, make it to the theater to see Freaky, which seems to have gotten good reviews so far. Maybe next weekend. So it was time to check out Netflix’s most recent offerings. In the midst of my most recent woes, the last thing I wanted to see in my initial choice, Rogue City, was a dog murdered in the first five minutes. I quickly shut off option one and went with option two, Holidate. I am glad I did.

Being alone on the holidays (all the holidays, apparently), stinks, and this is the main theme of Holidate. Sloane (Emma Roberts) goes home to her family for Christmas and is immediately judged on the basis of her not being there with a plus one, particularly by her mother, Elaine (Frances Fisher). Meanwhile, in another part of the Chicago area (which always endears a movie to me), Jackson (Luke Bracey) is spending Christmas with his current girlfriend’s family, and they are a bit . . . I will go with intense. The next day, having escaped his girlfriend’s crazy Christmas sweaters and desire to do inappropriate things with her parents in the next room, he encounters Sloane at the mall. As their conversation progresses, they discuss the perceived dangers of being unattached at this time of year, and they agree to attend a New Year’s party together. They appear to enjoy each other’s company enough to decide to date each other, but only on holidays. As Jackson puts it, the relatively minor celebrations can be just as bad as the major ones, thus not only do they get together on occasions like Valentine’s Day, but also Cinco de Mayo. Unfortunately, for a time their relationship remains in that casual category that is far too common among adults in this day and age. It starts off not being physical, but they over-indulge on Cinco de Mayo and end up waking up in Sloane’s apartment the next morning wearing each other’s underwear. At least she is wearing his boxers, but it is unclear what exactly had transpired the previous night. While both claim to see advantages to their current arrangement of only seeing each other on red letter days on the calendar, feelings do begin to develop. There are the inevitable complications. For one, Elaine continues to try to set up Sloane with a young doctor named Faarooq (Manish Dayal), who is seemingly every girl’s dream. The main problem is Sloane herself. When Jackson and Sloane first meet, he asserts that he is not attracted to her. You know, the kind of thing that really makes a girl’s heart flutter. At the same time, Sloane clings to remaining single seemingly to spite her mother. Thus when true affection develops, they do not know how to handle it, and decide to take separate dates to Sloane’s brother York’s wedding on Labor Day. Sloane goes with Faarooq and Jackson takes Sloane’s Aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth). While at the reception, they both try to make each other jealous, but when Faarooq and Aunt Susan begin to pay more attention to each other than those whose arms they are supposed to be on, Jackson and Sloane end up back together. Things boil over, though, when they do finally have sex on Halloween and Sloane remains apparently uninterested in anything more serious. Whether our society wants to admit it or not, that act truly does complicate everything. To his credit, Jackson persists, but Sloane remains unmoved until a disastrous Thanksgiving shows her that she really does love Jackson. It takes a public declaration in front of a crowded mall on Black Friday to win him over after this latest rejection, and they seemingly live happily ever after.

Holidate contains many adult situations. There are wives kissing men who are not their husbands; pot smoking; swearing; telling little girls that to be a “whore” means getting paid to play with boys; fingers being blown off by fireworks; children dating; mothers encouraging pre-marital sex; stereotypes about women being clingy and men being afraid of commitment; peer pressure; pregnancy out of wedlock (not Sloane); heavy drinking; and serial dating. In short, this is not the kind of film you would show to your parish movie club. It is a shame that our movies seem to reflect the state of our society today, but neither would I say this one is completely devoid of value. There are films that feature all the things mentioned above and seem to celebrate them as a virtue, as if people like some practicing Catholics are the ones who are the deviants. This is not one of those, and it remains basically light hearted throughout. While it does not necessarily suggest that Jackson and Sloane are going to get married, it does seem to show that they learn the value of a serious relationship. I also appreciate the time they take in getting to know each other. I get that I cannot expect Catholic values from the overwhelming majority of the films I watch, but at least there is something here to hold on to that makes it okay to laugh at some genuinely funny moments. And at least there is no nudity.

Holidate is a romantic comedy, and is pretty standard in its approach. If you are not familiar with its formula and you do not expect Jackson and Sloane to get together in the end, then I do not know what to tell you. If you can handle all the things that I discussed in the previous paragraph, then it is a pretty entertaining movie. If you are a practicing Catholic like me, treat the inappropriate scenes like you would many of your family and friends. We all have them, right? The ones that are good people, but because they do not share your code of behavior as set down by your Faith you just kind of sigh at the things they do. But you love them all the same.

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