Director: Paul Feig
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, and Michelle Yeoh
Cinematographer: John Schwartzman
Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) join forces in hopes of bringing Christmas cheer this holiday season from an unlikely source. In Paul Feig’s romantic comedy, Last Christmas, a family is torn, hearts are broken and love is in the air. Though the feature is predictable and somewhat forgettable in nature, there are plenty of heartwarming moments embedded within Emma Thompson’s (Late Night) script. But for perspective, it’s only entertaining enough, and it just doesn’t provide a lasting impression.
The story follows Kate (Emilia Clarke), who works as an elf in a year-round Christmas store. As time progresses, you’ll learn that Kate had recently undergone a heart transplant, which left her feeling lost when it comes to understanding who she is. This leads her down a path of destruction where Kate indulges in self-pity and temporary pleasure to mask the pain of her long-lasting depression. But one fine day, she meets Tom (Henry Golding) – the charming and handsome do-gooder – who has this uncanny ability to show up when she needs him most to bring happiness when she’s on the brink of sadness.
As far as storytelling is concerned, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Feig’s feature; but there’s no arguing against the fact that this just won’t be for everyone. For one, the script isn’t Thompson’s best. The funny moments are scarce and are buried in cheesy ones that become over-the-top. But in between the tonal imbalances lies a story about a girl trying to recover from a trying time in her life. My problem, however, is that she seems to think it’s ok to take it out on everyone else around her.
In one instance, and probably the most important moment in the film, for me, was witnessing how Kate came to terms with people calling her out on her irresponsibility with the intention of helping her. Instead of reflecting on what people said to her, Kate opts for insults and criticism – even taking it as far as outing her lesbian sister to her conservative parents. The script took what was once a sympathetic character who just needed to find her way and turned her into a selfish and bitter woman who refuses to take responsibility for herself and misfortunes. Because of this, it was hard to care about what happened to Kate. Furthermore, it was even harder to determine if the film even wanted its viewers to have any sympathy towards her.
Some might argue that that’s just Kate’s display of survivor’s guilt or depression. But if that were so, the film is nothing short of a giant missed opportunity to explore these sentiments. Because instead of getting more exploration of Kate becoming a better person due to realizing how her actions impact others, we see her slowly become more reliant on a man (Tom), even though he clearly doesn’t want to be that person for her. Of course, audiences come to learn why that is, but it seems like Kate makes the decision to step up and depend on herself for happiness because she has to instead of wanting to. And that’s simply when I lost interest: in Kate’s character progression and certainly in her poorly-executed apology tour.
Still, there’s no denying the glimpses of magic sprinkled throughout Last Christmas when it comes to Clarke and Golding’s chemistry- especially when heartwarming, deep and tear-jerking conversations take place. Even when the script doesn’t live up to the Christmas spirit of joy, love and laughter, the two leads pull out all the stops to make something happen on screen. For me, however, it just wasn’t enough to find its way on my list of favorite movies of the month, and certainly not as one of the best Christmas movies of all time.