2.5 out of 5 stars.
“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you gave it away.” We all know the words to “Last Christmas,” the iconic holiday favorite by Wham! And that knowledge just adds to the painful predictability of the movie “Last Christmas,” a sort of rom-com directed by Paul Feig, written by Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings, and featuring the music of George Michael and Wham! It’s a film that may hit some sort of sweet spot thanks to its festive setting and likeable leads, but ultimately doesn’t know what it’s trying to be, and ends up coming off as forced rather than sincere.
“Last Christmas” follows Kate (Emilia Clarke) a young woman whose life is a disaster. She lives in London, but coach surfs with anyone who will take her to avoid going home to her domineering mother Petra (Thompson), drinks heavily, and works as a clerk in a holiday shop run by a woman who merely goes by Santa (Michelle Yeoh), while going on auditions to try and fulfill her singing aspirations. One day Kate meets Tom (Henry Golding), a kind man whose cheerfulness eventually starts to win her over, and he inspires her to make changes in her life.
There are plenty of sparkly lights throughout the film, a sweet rendition of “Last Christmas” at the end, and Clarke spends the majority of the movie dressed as an elf, which might be enough to satisfy some viewers looking to get their holiday fix. But there isn’t that much cheer to be found in this so-called Christmas movie, which tries to be light and sweet while also making a half-hearted attempt to be dramatic and address some heavier issues, few of which are necessary to the story. There are some funny moments and good bantering, but the success of these aspects of the film have to be credited to the cast. Yeoh and Thompson are both hilarious as both the mother and a motherly figure in Kate’s life, and they never miss an opportunity to point out her shortcomings. Clarke is a winning protagonist, and I think it’s safe to say that this film would have been less watchable had she not been in the lead. Clarke is adept at both comedy and drama, and she does a good job portraying Kate as someone who appears carefree and bubbly on the surface, but is actually suffering from a lot of trauma. She could be a really great rom-com star—if only she was given decent material. Clarke and Golding have decent chemistry, but their relationship never feels particularly romantic (the same could be said for the couple in another Clarke romance, 2016’s “Me Before You”).
In terms of the rest of the story, everyone and their mother who followed the marketing for this movie seemed to figure out the big twist, but even if you didn’t, it becomes very obvious as the story progresses. The fact that this predictable plot is played as a huge shocker is an eye-rolling moment in an already ridiculous story.
“Last Christmas” will definitely not go down as a new holiday classic, and in fact it’s a pretty bad movie altogether. While I wouldn’t say that it’s so bad it’s good, I also didn’t hate watching it, thanks in large part to the quirky characters and the cast that portrays them. As indicated before, we also hear a lot of George Michael music throughout the film, but the story never really takes advantage of that, and the fact that Kate apparently lives by George Michael is brought up at the start of the film and never circles back to really mean much in the end. But what “Last Christmas” did do was make me long for more holiday movies, and not the made-for-TV ones—which honestly is what this one should have been.
Runtime: 102 minutes. Rated PG-13.