Starring: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh 
Director:
Paul Feig
Story: Emma Thompson and Greg Wise
Writer: Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings

‘Tis the season for the barrage of Christmas movies being released to theaters near you to welcome the festive and favorite holiday of many. Last Christmas is the first of these films to have quite a marketing campaign behind it, with an impressive cast such as Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, and Emma Thompson in the mix. Emma Thompson came up with the story with her partner Greg Wise, and the film was directed by Paul Feig, who brought us the funny favorite Bridesmaids. The goal for holiday movies is being good enough; it makes the traditional movie watching line-up that so many of us partake during the holidays. Does it stack up to The Holiday, Love Actually, and Elf, though? I personally don’t think so.

The story is loosely inspired by the late George Michael’s ’80s Christmas jam with the same name but isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, even if it thinks it’s original. The film opens up in a cathedral in Yugoslavia in 1999, where a young Katarina sings a church-appropriate choral arrangement of Michael’s Heal the Pain.

From there, we’re transported back to the present where Katarina is now the 27-years-old Kate (Emilia Clarke). She’s an aspiring singer working in a year-round Christmas store which belongs to Santa (Michelle Yeoh). However, Kate’s life is a hot mess, and she is a very unlikable character at first. She’s an entitled, selfish, twenty-something who refuses to own any responsibility for herself and takes unnecessary advantage of all her friends. I guess we’re all supposed to give her a pass because we soon learn she has a chronic illness that almost killed her … last Christmas! Didn’t expect that one, did you?!

She can’t quite seem to catch a break and get her life together. That is until she meets Tom (Henry Golding) in typical rom-com, meet-cute fashion outside her store as he “looks up”—a theme throughout the film—at a falcon perched within the city. The falcon, unfortunately, poops in Kate’s eye, spoiling the moment between the two strangers. However, as her messy lifestyle charges on and she bombs another singing audition, she runs into him again.

They walk around London together, and viewers learn very little about Tom other than he dresses like a poster child for an Uniqlo ad and volunteers at the local shelter. After hearing Kate is “homeless,” this one-dimensional gentleman takes her there only to learn she very much has a home. She cannot stand her mother Petra, played by Emma Thompson, who happens to have some of the best one-liners and scenes that get the most laughs out of the audience, one of them being when Kate finally returns home, and Petra sings her a haunting Croatian lullaby as she tries to sleep.

Her dysfunctional family did hit home with me as a first-generation Canadian. My mom also drove me crazy at times, but not enough to make Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy” my ringtone anytime she called me. The truth is, her family isn’t that bad, and Kate is just a brat. Her family members are some of the most fleshed-out characters and have the most realistic and touching story arc compared to any other subplot or character going on in this film.

If you’ve seen the Last Christmas trailer, you know there is something off with Tom. He shows up when Kate seems to need him the most and then disappears just when she starts to depend on him to turn her life around. No, my friends, he’s not an angel but maybe just as ridiculous. The twist to this film—-which isn’t worth spoiling on here—is something that would put a Hallmark movie to shame. Is that a good thing or a bad thing, I’ll leave that to your judgment. It was a reveal that had me stifling bouts of laughter amongst the odd sniffle in the audience, though.

I want to add I love a good rom-com, especially at Christmas! However, this just missed so many marks for me. Also, I want to call out the editing that somehow made this film feel longer than the 1 hour and 43 minutes I sat there. Especially for keeping such awkward cuts in, such as the homeless man saying “Yeah!” at our performing protagonist during a second cut back at him. Why editors? Why did you leave that in?

Some redeeming qualities working for Last Christmas was how beautiful Emilia Clarke looks on screen even as a hot mess of a person. The incredible soundtrack comprised of many George Michael songs used to further articulate key moments in the film, sometimes as a punch line. Think “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” playing after our protagonist oversleeps type of gag. Cheesy but acceptable in these circumstances. And the use of “Lesbian pudding” … something that will make more sense when you watch the film.

You’d think with such an incredible cast, Emma Thompson’s brilliance, and Paul Feig’s direction that Last Christmas would be the next Love, Actually. Sadly it’s a film I hope will never fool me again.

Last Christmas

5.5

Emilia Clarke in a role that isn't associated to GOT

7.5/10

Overall soundtrack

9.0/10

Overall storyline

4.0/10

"Unassuming" Plot twist

4.0/10

Can it be a New Addition to the Christmas movie watching roster?

3.0/10

Pros

  • Emma Thompson's one liners as Petra throughout the film.
  • Henry Golding's incredibly good looks on screen.
  • The dysfunctional, immigrant family story arc.
  • George Michael's hits sprinkled through the film's soundtrack

Cons

  • Felt like it was dragged out a bit length-wise.
  • Terrible "plot twist."
  • Unoriginal story based around Christmas.
  • The editing of this film in general.
Mia Santos
mia.santos.guevara@gmail.com
Mia is a Toronto based writer and filmmaker. She is a self proclaimed comic book nerd, film buff and cat enthusiast. She has one short film under her belt titled Catch Up (2012) and you can read more of her film reviews on her blog The Catty Critic on WordPress.

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