The film was shot in metro Atlanta last year though fictionally set in Chicago.
The new Netflix film “Holidate” takes a simple conceit that might sound appealing to anybody not exactly hungering for commitment: two single people agree to meet only on major holidays — and that’s it.
Emma Roberts (“American Horror Story”) plays Sloane, who had a rough break up and is now committed to being single. She also finds holidays seriously annoying. She runs into Jackson (Luke Bracey), who feels exactly the same way. Inspired by Aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth), they decided to become each other’s “holidates,” meeting on New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and others. The film’s tone veers from cynical to serious to madcap.
Given the construct of these types of films, it’s not a question of whether Sloane and Jackson will end up together by the end of the movie. It’s how.
“Holidate” was shot last year in metro Atlanta but set in Chicago. It features a multitude of scenes in clubs, bars and house parties that involve dozens of extras, evoking a wistful time when such pre-pandemic activities were par for the course. Many of the key shots are also set in a mall packed with shoppers.
“The insurance companies would have a conniption fit if we tried that now,” said Bracey, who admits missing the group energy that a crowd brings.
Like any romantic comedy worth its salt, the chemistry between the two love interests has to feel authentic.
In this case, Bracey said when he sat down with Roberts for what Hollywood types call a “chemistry read," something silly happened, and they both laughed. He knew that this could work.
“It was like meeting an old friend,” he said. “That made it so easy. That’s what the film is about. They start out as friends, the crux of any good relationship. We’d go out as ourselves to dinner and chat and say, ‘This is weird. This is exactly a conversation we’d have in the movie!'"
Much of the film revolves around the societal pressures friends and family place on couples to get serious.
“If you spend so much time placating other people’s ideas of who you are or should be, it’s going to get messy and complicated and weird," he said. “You have to let go of that ego and be true to yourself and the other person and not worry so much about what other people think."
The film gets meta for a moment when Sloane complains to Jackson about how romantic films have to keep the couple apart for as long as possible via artificial means before the inevitable happy ending. In this case, nothing concrete is necessarily keeping Jackson and Sloane apart since both are single beyond an array of insecurities and fears.
“It’s easy to get stuck in our ways and do what we’ve done before,” Bracey said. “When people think of luck in your life, it’s really about being open to the possibility that is often staring in your face. You set yourself up in this way. Sometimes, you just have to take that leap of faith."
It didn’t hurt that the film features the irrepressible Tony-winning Chenoweth: “She’s this little ray of sunshine full of energy every day. Whenever we shot scenes with her, I knew it was going to a fun day.”
Kristin Chenoweth as Aunt Susan in "Holidate." Photo credit: Steve Dietl/NETFLIX
Credit: Steve Dietl/NETFLIX
Credit: Steve Dietl/NETFLIX
As an up-and-coming actor, Bracey is happy to be on a Netflix original given the worldwide reach of the service: “I had that pang of real nervousness when the trailer came out. ‘Are people going to watch this? What if I’m not funny and people hate me?’ But it’s also really exciting. The accessibility of Netflix has democratized the sharing of art and escapism. I am proud of it coming out when we have to laugh and smile and get away from it all.”
Bracey, who is Australian, said he knew very little about Atlanta before shooting the movie but was thrilled to arrive a year ago when the Shaky Knees Festival was happening at Atlanta’s Central Park. He was able to catch one of his favorite bands, Australian rockers Tame Impala. The following weekend, the Shaky Beats Festival featured another Australian group he liked, Rüfüs Du Sol.
"I was thinking, ‘Atlanta is sick!’ " he said, and in the best of ways.
He is now shooting an Elvis Presley biopic in Australia starring Tom Hanks. Bracey is Jerry Schilling, a close associate of Presley. (The film is why Hanks was in Australia in March and contracted COVID-19.)
Bracey said his favorite Elvis song going into the film was “Suspicious Minds,” a karaoke go-to for him. But in researching Presley, he watched the star’s 1968 NBC special and was mesmerized by his rendition of “If I Can Dream.” “It was so spectacular, so beautiful,” Bracey said. “He just nails it. I had that song stuck on repeat for a week. I couldn’t get enough of it."
“Holidate,” available on Netflix for subscribers.
About the Author
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years.