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Where was holiday filmed, holidate filming locations, Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey

'Holidate' Review: Netflix Rom Com Adds Frank to Season

Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey charm a not-couple enticing destiny.

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Taking aunt's signals to carry a series of random guys to family holiday celebrations might not be smart. Yet in the happily diverting "Holidate" rom-com (streaming on Netflix), that's just what Sloane (Emma Roberts) does with a twist. After meeting prickly, she and stunning strange Jackson form a pact. They'd been stuck in a mall's return line, one-up each other on the agony of being single during holidays. Just before New Year's Eve (surely among the most demanding link holidays), the two agree to be the fake dates for the heavy-pressure night.

Briskly directed by John Whitesell, written by Tiffany Paulsen, "Holidate" won't change your mind about romantic comedy's tread-worn obstacles, but its leads exploit their charms beautifully. The film starts with Sloane arrival at Christmas's mum. We get an eye-catching holiday excess: decoration flame, hideous sweater get-ups, a family meeting over-amped buzz. Sloane receives an earnest for being a singleton: her mom (Frances Fisher) and her sister Abby (Jessica Capshaw), her younger brother York (Jake Manley) and his too-soon-(for Sloane)-to-be fiancée, Liz (Cynthy Wu). Her aunt Susan (a carnally winking Kristin Chenoweth) snagged a Santa Baby for dinner.

As for Jackson, the gorgeous Aussie committed to a fake Christmas date going backwards as soon as his parents welcome him at the front door. When the "date" realizes he doesn't share her intentions, the movie essentially declares its "not rated" intentions, but rather R-rated intentions.

Sloane and Jackson's first substitution date goes well enough, amid sweet asterisks. But not fully-planned, they share Valentine's Day. Any cynical camaraderie finds them re-upping for more holidays together. Some are meaningful. Others find the highly frisky couple seizing on days that are more like time spent together than the real holiday: for say, a tequila-drenched Cinco de Mayo.

Sloane and Jackson's deal is no friends-with-benefits proposal. The two settle on purely platonic relationship. The listener, duly programmed by the genre for decades, knows when things will definitely finish. So it's the pair's zigs and zags that interest. Their slow-building to fondness has a pull. It also claims that not having to be urgently with someone provides the best relational space for someone.

Romantic comedies are also promiscuous in courting the viewer's genre fondness. Screenwriters have name-check other romantic comedies. (Unlike the way "Scream's" teens responded to horror flicks). Often the gesture succeeds, but instead a film damns in contrast. "Holidate" nods more than a few times to some classics but also pulls off a subtly intergenerational surprise with Sloane and Jack riffing on Patrick Swayze's "Dirty Dance" version of "Mad Dumb Love."

How much "Holidate" delights depends on whether you have a rooting interest in these supposed beloveds. Roberts (who performed particularly nice as a witch in "American Horror Story" season "Coven") is increasingly relaxed with an edge she can't disavow onscreen. Here it reads game rules as tart-tongued and savvy. Yet her eyes betray that Sloane can not possess her emotions. Yeah, she complains so much about the one that got away — a French born named Luc (Julien Marlon Saman)—but as things change between her and Jackson (and they change), she looks terrified. He does, too, if a bit less. When their game rules change, uncertainty reigns. Sloane uses her older confessor. Jackson listens to, and smartly discounts, his serial-dating pal Neil (Andrew Bachelor). One sure sign they got closer to each date: they knew how to damage each other.

If you don't remember all the things Sloane and Jackson keep jumping into through the year, it could be because they come under the rubric of going out, partying, party. Those packed gatherings can poke their own holiday sadness in viewers during COVID-19 periods. The only way someone wears masks is for Halloween, and even then it's not that the camera likes their mugs so much. Roberts' wide-mouth grin obviously runs in the family. Bracey has a beckoning dimple that his stubble can't mask.

The supporting cast adds their own charm to the non-couple 's almost year-long non-courtship. Manish Dayal exudes warmth as Farook, Mom Elaine's kind, sloe-eyed doctor, attempts to reach her daughter. The operative word "Hitch." As a randy aunt Susan — an avowed "holidate" practitioner — Chenoweth has fun as an erotically, take-charge softie.

While in this story, Sloane and Jackson act as if their romance is the least possible thing, it's not. This is an inherent twist.

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