Paul Feig (director)
1h 43mins (length)
14 November 2019 (released)
15 November 2019
For many of us, the festive season isn't complete without a viewing of a Christmas movie.
And now, there is a new film to add to the list of U.K.-based holiday flicks, as Bridesmaids filmmaker Paul Feig's latest feature, Last Christmas, certainly ticks most of the boxes in the category.
Inspired by the 1984 song of the same name by the late George Michael and his Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley, the plot was co-written by screenwriter Bryony Kimmings, actress Emma Thompson, and her actor husband Greg Wise, and is set in late in London in late 2016. It follows the story of a cynical young singer named Kate (Emilia Clarke), who is struggling to get her music career plans back on track after a series of health issues and a bunch of very bad decisions.
While doing her best to prepare for auditions, Kate splits her time between working in a Christmas shop run by an unflappable Malaysian woman named Santa (Michelle Yeoh) and avoiding her family.
Her parents Petra (Thompson) and Ivan (Boris Isakovic), as well as her older sister Marta (Lydia Leonard), were forced to flee Yugoslavia during the wars in the early 1990s, and though they settled in Britain's capital, the formerly tight family unit has been deeply fractured by the move.
Nothing is easy for Kate, whether it be the constant jangling of the bells on her shoes which make up her elf costume for work, her clumsiness, or knack for picking the wrong men and alienating her only friends.
Yet, all that changes when she meets a mysterious stranger named Tom (Henry Golding) outside of the Christmas shop and he immediately captures her attention. Tom takes Kate on a whirlwind adventure through the streets of London, dropping a series of A Christmas Carol-like life lessons, guiding her through her misfortunes, encouraging her to make amends, and compelling her to see the little things that spark joy.
But is her new beau the love of her life or perhaps the spirit of Christmas Past, Present or Yet to Come? Well, that's the question Feig and the writers ask of the audience throughout, with the answer proving to be rather divisive and best kept under wraps.
Clarke (and her eyebrows) deliver an energetic performance, with her exchanges with Santa and Petra proving to be some of the most humorous.
Though what is a little lacking is chemistry between the two leads. This may have been a conscious decision by the writers, yet even so, romcom fans want romance!
Golding does his best with the limited screen time he has but is largely overshadowed by supporting characters, including his Crazy Rich Asians co-star Yeoh.
Meanwhile, cameos from Rob Delaney, Peter Serafinowicz, and Sue Perkins are much too short, and Thompson can't quite get to grips with the required accent, which comes off as Russian rather than Yugoslav.
In some ways, the city of London is the real star of the show, with Feig doing a nice job of capturing the hustle and bustle of the city streets in December, and while the plot honours pop icon Michael's music, Last Christmas plays no fewer than five times throughout. This borders on excessive even for a festive movie.
Feig and his writers attempt to segue in some social commentary too, delving into key topics such as xenophobia, Brexit, homelessness in the city, and the acceptance of same-sex relationships, but most of these themes are touched upon much too briefly to truly resonate.
In all, Last Christmas is packed with all the cheer and cheesiness required of December viewing but somehow ends up being a bit more Hallmark than The Holiday.