Kate (Emilia Clarke) is a young woman living a very scattered and disorganised existence. She is couch-surfing amongst her circle of friends and her selfish behaviour means she isn’t the ideal house guest. She could go home to her parents, but she is avoiding family confrontation. Her position at work is sometimes precarious because she isn’t the most conscientious of employees. She is rather lost and stuck in her present circumstances and has no idea how to move forward. Christmas approaches and that is something of a big deal because her job is a retail elf in a year-round Christmas Store.
Kate keeps bumping into a chipper young man called Tom (Henry Golding), a happy character whose upbeat way of looking at the world is the complete opposite of her point-of-view. Will she learn from this experience in a wonderful, Yuletide kind-of-way?
LAST CHRISTMAS is a quasi rom-com that wants a slice of the movie audience that writer/director Richard Curtis usually caters to. The concept is somewhere between one of the LOVE ACTUALLY (2003) stories and the movie ABOUT TIME (2013). The title is taken from that 1984 WHAM song you either love or hate. Sing along! “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, But the very next day you gave it away…” Many of the songs are by the late George Michael, however this is not a jukebox musical. This is a very chocolate-boxy set-up calculated to sell the idea of contemporary London as a romantic Christmas destination.
Performances are good and will engage the audience. Game of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke is charming and sparky as the f*cked-up hero. Henry Golding of CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018) is charming and handsome as the rom-com “prince” of this story. Emma Thompson plays Kate’s Croatian mother. The great Michelle Yeoh is the owner of the Christmas store and acquits herself well in the role. She plays the tough-minded bit as well as one would expect, but she is also good with the less familiar comedic element.
The story is written by Emma Thompson and husband Greg Wise. The script is by Thompson and artist/comedian Bryony Kimmings. The film is directed by Paul Feig of BRIDESMAIDS (2011) and THE HEAT (2013). So, the story-telling and direction is in very capable hands. One would think.
Emma Thompson apparently spoke with George Michael several times in the long gestation period of the script. After his death, the script took on a more honorific purpose, Thompson wanting the final movie to celebrate the talent of the late composer/singer. The various Michael songs are worked in effectively. She also conceived this piece as a love letter to London and what she described as “Secret London”. A choice that doesn’t work as well is having Thompson playing a Croatian character. The audience is aware of who she is and what she sounds like, so the pantomime “Eastern-European” vibe of her portrayal undermines the more serious refugee strand of the story that she herself wrote.
For the most part, LAST CHRISTMAS is a light-hearted comedy that has some moving scenes centring on ideas of friends and family coming together for Christmas. You’ll laugh. You might shed a tear. And you’ll probably be entertained by this, particularly if you are the sort of person who enjoys Christmas and Eggnog. This will be particularly good viewing with the right kind of ‘nog. Duration: 103 minutes. Rating: (6.5/10)