Current Issue #488

Film Review:
Last Christmas

Henry Golding and Emilia Clarke in Last Christmas

Christmas movies are an awfully schmaltzy lot, but pro American director Paul Feig and co-writer Emma Thompson ensure that this contrivedly ‘feel-good’ charmer is top-shelf schmaltz.

Their combined clout also meant that they were permitted to use a selection of songs by the late lamented George Michael (both Wham! and solo tunes), and these ditties certainly keep the thing bopping along nicely.

A post-Game Of Thrones Emilia Clarke is actually very charming as Katarina, sorry, Kate, and her presence helps make some of the dopier and ropier stuff here work. Opening in the former Yugoslavia in 1999 and then cutting to just before Christmas 2017 in London, this has Clarke’s Kate depicted as a complete disaster area, as she turns friends against her, sleeps with the wrong guys and generally has a miserable time. Yes, she’s hiding something, but Clarke (and screenwriters Thompson and Bryony Kimmings) keep us unsure exactly what it is – although, of course, it’s rather given away in the trailer.

Barely keeping a job as an elf helper in a shop full of yuletide tat run by the stern ‘Santa’ (Michelle Yeoh, fresh from Crazy Rich Asians), Kate eventually must return home to her formidable Mum Petra, who’s (of course) spiritedly played by Thompson with a convincing accent. Our heroine also meets the elusive Tom (Henry Golding from Crazy Rich Asians and director Feig’s A Simple Favor), and he takes her for one of those whirlwind tours of underappreciated local sights so familiar to fans of this sort of nonsense.

As she inevitably falls for Tom, Kate also starts getting over herself and stops being so selfish, and there’s a whole subplot about her work at a homeless shelter that seems especially unlikely and just a little patronising. But, every time you think you’re getting annoyed, along comes another classic George Michael tune, from Freedom! ’90 and Faith to the as-yet-unreleased This Is How (We Want You To Get High) and endless variations on that evergreen Wham! titular tune.

Yes, it’s all a bit daft, and while many might perhaps scream, “Humbug!”, there’s still much here to enjoy, and even a few dark edges, such as a glimmer of Brexit xenophobia.

And come on, it’s Christmas! Well, it’s almost Christmas, sort of. And you’ve gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith…

Reviewer Rating

Last Christmas (PG) is in cinemas now

DM Bradley

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