From: Silver Screen
“Last Christmas” is the social commentary on every fathomable topic that you know you don’t need
A script fit for a Lifetime direct-to-TV movie is given the Hollywood treatment in “Last Christmas,” director Paul Feig’s latest film since “A Simple Favor.” Feig, along with an all-star cast and a George Michael-heavy soundtrack, attempts to tackle the classic feel-good Christmas romantic-comedy like “The Holiday” and “Love Actually.” However, with focuses on economic inequality, refugees, and Brexit, what results is a confounding mess that addresses a myriad of unexpectedly serious topics.
Kate (Emilia Clarke) works as an elf in a year-round Christmas shop in London’s Covent Garden but loses her spirit after an unexplained illness. She is caught in a downward spiral until she meets Tom (Henry Golding), who appears to have zero flaws and, for some reason, takes an interest in her despite her lack of redeeming qualities. Tom brings out the good in Kate, who is the embodiment of a “hot mess,” and she begins to turn her life around after a series of lows.
What should be a straightforward and uplifting film starring two actors coming off of their respective moments in the pop culture limelight is muddled by an overstuffed political agenda. Set in 2017, Feig undertakes hot-button sociopolitical topics, such as Kate’s Yugoslavian family’s lower-middle-class economic standing, their negative experiences with the British healthcare system, and the rise in xenophobic attitudes as a result of Brexit. If Feig had decided to remove the not-so-subtle Brexit context from the film, it might have become a timeless, albeit still bad, Christmas rerun staple. Instead, it comes across as a feeble attempt by Feig and the co-producer, co-writer, and supporting actor, Emma Thompson, to spoon-feed and dumb-down a complex political message through an eggnog soaked and already strange plot.
These confusing political moments merely fall to the wayside of what is a lackluster love story between Kate and Tom. While Clarke is beloved as HBO’s favorite Emily Blunt knockoff, her charms fall short in this role and do not match the likeness of one of the most ideal men in the world, Henry Golding. There is little chemistry between the two leads, and Golding’s character is far too charismatic to connect to. An already a predictable plot, with a twist surmised from the trailer alone, is beyond unsatisfying with such a poor relationship at its core.
“Last Christmas” does have its quirks and charm. The soundtrack is comprised of all the best George Michael hits, also getting incredible mileage out of Michael’s titular holiday classic “Last Christmas” throughout the film’s almost two hour run time. The stellar soundtrack is further coupled with an excellent setting. London at Christmastime is beautiful, and Feig—who shot the film last Christmas—took full advantage of the twinkling fairy lights that decorated the streets. This, along with the Christmas shop that Kate works at, makes it impossible not to get into the Christmas spirit.
The film also has fun with the romantic comedy’s most necessary component—the sidekick and her side-plot romance. Michelle Yeoh, who plays Kate’s boss, is perfectly cast as a nitpicking business owner. She dresses in traditional Chinese silk robes and gowns, both a bold choice by the costume designers and a stark contrast to the windswept, unkempt tragedy that is Kate. The side-plot of a vague love story ends up being more endearing than the one which the film is centered on, as Feig satirically encapsulates every campy rom-com trope into one couple.
“Last Christmas” is an enjoyable but often too serious movie that will not stand the test of time. It’s generic Christmas-humbug-turned-do-gooder plot barely holds its form within the confines of the film’s jumbled plot, and it irredeemably falls apart as soon as the credits roll. While cheery and well-intentioned, it isn’t worth a trip to the theater. Do yourself a favor and wait until December when it makes its streaming and/or cable debut.
“Last Christmas” will be in theaters November 8.