Last Christmas.

Posted: December 3, 2019 in Film reviews
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Directed by Paul Feig. Starring Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson.

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Kate (Clarke) is a young woman adrift in the world. She’s something of a nomad, crashing with friends who soon throw her out because of her disruptive behaviour. She drinks heavily and flits between one night stands, and whilst she still dreams of being a professional singer, her auditions get her nowhere, leaving her working full time as an elf in an all year round Christmas shop run by snarky Santa (Yeoh) and avoiding her mother (Thompson).

Then one day she meets a handsome, yet odd man named Tom (Golding) who she’s attracted to. They begin a platonic romance, but why does he keep disappearing then reappearing when Kate needs him most? Will she reconnect with her family, will she stop her self -destructive behaviour and most of all, will she solve the mystery of Tom?

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A film directed by the helmer of Bridesmaids, written by Emma Thompson, featuring an engaging cast and the music of the late, great George Michael. What could go wrong? Well going by many of the critics almost everything, and so I approached this with trepidation.

So what did I think? Well it’s cheesy, twee, and machine tooled within an inch of its life to tug on your heartstrings. It’s also not half as clever as it thinks it is. But you know what, I still liked it, and come the end I had a lump in my throat that wasn’t down to tonsillitis, because completely unexpectedly, and against my better (or should that be bitter?) judgement, this hit me right in the feels.

2518-fp-00067r-1573827710The film’s biggest asset is its cast. After years as the mirthless mother of dragons, everyone’s favourite Khaleesi is having fun with a role that could have so easily been telephoned in, yet Clarke invests herself totally in the part. She’s loveable and annoying in equal measure, yet also carries a hint of melancholy because she’s so clearly broken, it’s just that she doesn’t know how to fix herself, and it’s obvious that Clarke channels her own health issues into Kate, a woman who had her own brush with death. She’s onscreen for most of the film bouncing around like a pinball and has you rooting for her in that Bridget Jones kinda way.

As Tom, Golding plays the kind of handsome, wise, nice guy that even I could fall for, and he and Clarke have great chemistry. He doesn’t have a lot to work with but much like Clarke wrings all the pathos he can out of it.

As ‘Santa’ Yeoh is a hoot with limited screen time, sarcastic and dismissive of Kate, yet in a totally affectionate way, though it is amusing that someone so grumpy could love Christmas enough to run a year-round x-mas shop! If her romance seems a trifle forced this isn’t Yeoh’s fault, and from Bond girl and martial artist, to mirror universe Starfleet captain and now romantic comedy star she proves she can successfully turn her hand to anything.

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“So you were in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and I was the mother of Dragons. Small world.”

If there’s a weak link then oddly it’s Thompson, whose portrayal of Kate’s Yugoslavian mother has its moments—many of the film’s finniest—yet feels oddly broad compared to the slightly more nuanced performances around her, and one wonders if a less well known character actor might have played the part better.

The script leaves no romantic comedy trope out in the cold, and is a trifle too on the nose at times, and the Brexit subplot is well meaning but clunky as Marley’s chains, and talking of Marley its obvious too many critics treated this as a straight up romcom rather than what it really is, a Christmas redemption story in the style of things like A Christmas Carol or it’s a Wonderful life. Only time will tell if this film sinks from view or becomes a somewhat cheesy Christmas staple. I can see the latter.

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The twist is something you may see coming, especially given the obvious clue hanging over the film, and your enjoyment may depend on how you view the plot turn when it arrives, but for me it worked in the context of the film, and if nothing else the film does stick to its own internal logic, which is where a lot of fantastical films fall down.

Outside of the titular song, the music of George Michael is scattered haphazardly throughout the film, and you can’t help feeling that a bit more effort should have been taken to truly honour his work, though there’s a nice cameo near the end.

It’s a bit clunky, a bit preposterous, a bit obvious and is trying way to hard to be a Richard Curtis film, but then again I probably enjoyed it more than this year’s actual Richard Curtis film, and it scores points for not quite being the film you think it is. There are a multitude of little cameos and it lives in that ever so slightly faux London inhabited by the likes of Bridget Jones and Paddington, but so what, I like Bridge and that Peruvian immigrant, and though this isn’t on the same level, I liked Last Christmas as well, for all it’s faults you can’t deny its heart is in the right place.

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