Last Christmas (2019)
Directed by: Paul Feig
Premise: An aspiring singer (Emelia Clarke) works in a Christmas store that is open year-round. She lives an unstable life, floating from one couch to another, until she meets a charming stranger (Henry Golding) and reassesses her life.
What Works: Last Christmas is an old fashioned movie. It’s a holiday picture in the mold of classic Hollywood studio films like The Bishop’s Wife and Last Christmas is a relief from the cynical or materialist takes on the holiday that have been fashionable more recently like Bad Santa and Four Christmases. The best parts of Last Christmas involve the romance between a cynical retail worker and aspiring singer, played by Emilia Clarke, and an upbeat stranger played by Henry Golding. Clarke and Golding are a watchable pair and they have an engaging romantic chemistry. The actors bounce off each other in the same manner as classic Hollywood romantic comedies starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire or Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.
What Doesn’t: Unfortunately, the romantic comedy between Emelia Clarke and Henry Golding’s characters is drowned out by excessing plotting and saccharine filmmaking. Last Christmas is saddled with an overabundance of plotlines. Clarke’s character struggles with her career, navigates a fluid living situation, and copes with health challenges. On top of that, her family has all sorts of issues including a closeted gay sister and a tenuous marriage between her parents. If that wasn’t enough, the film also inserts a clumsy love story between a shopkeeper and a customer (Michelle Yeoh and Peter Mygind), drama in a homeless shelter, and a series of brief scenes in which Clarke’s character alienates her friends. It’s too many stories and characters for a 103 minute movie. The filmmakers jerk the audience from one conflict to another without addressing them in a meaningful way. The film also suffers from a casting problem. Emilia Clarke is a good actress and she is likable in her role but the character is supposed to be an immigrant who moved from the former Yugoslavia to the United Kingdom when she was ten. Clarke does not come across as a Slavic immigrant at all. Last Christmas is also very sentimental. Its Christmas spirit is relentless and Last Christmas is so syrupy that it could give the viewer Type 2 diabetes. The problem with Last Christmas is not that it is hopeful; the problem is that its hope is unearned. Like a lot of holiday tales, the protagonist of Last Christmas begins the story as a selfish person and she is eventually rehabilitated. But the story is pulled in too many directions and Clarke’s character is more clumsy than malicious. The feel-good Christmas celebration that climaxes the movie is disproportionate to the cynicism that it seeks to cure.
Bottom Line: Last Christmas comes across as a Hallmark Channel holiday movie that somehow wandered into theaters. But even Hallmark films are more focused than this. Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding are likable actors and they deserve better than this material.
Episode: #777 (November 24, 2019)