When you think of Christmas movies there are a few things that remain consistent throughout them all. They are films about sentiments: love, hope, family, giving – just to name a few of the themes that often populate Christmas films. One thing is for certain, a successful Christmas film is a very delicate balance. Last Christmas is an example of a Christmas film that has all the pieces, but can’t quite keep everything together.
Emma Thompson (who also has a supporting role in the film), wrote the script which is loosely based on George Michael’s music. The story follows Kate (Emilia Clarke) who can be deemed a hot mess after surviving a serious illness. She couch surfs her way through life, while working at a Christmas shop run by Michelle Yeoh’s Santa (no she isn’t actually Santa, although that would have been great). One day she has a meet-cute with a handsome stranger named Tom (Henry Golding), who is almost too good to be true. They could not be more different. Tom actually has his life together and as stated earlier, Kate does not – and, that is all one can say about the movie without giving away everything.
Thompson’s script is loaded, so loaded with all of the basic Christmas movie tropes that it threatens the balance. Directed by Paul Feig, it is as though the film can’t decide how to approach all of the ideas. Kate is dealing with a lot and is prompted by Tom to tackle her issues by doing better for herself, and for those around her. She is dealing with her personal health crisis, her rocky relationship with her family, her discomfort with reentering her normal routine after the health scare, and so much more. On top of that, there is a romance with Tom that takes a turn you can see coming a mile away. And, we have to loop in as much George Michael as we can.
There is a lot to like, starting with the performers, namely Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh, who wholly embrace the sentimentality of it all. Golding proves to yet again be leading man material with a great ‘I adore you’ expression permanently plastered onto his face. This is his second time working with Paul Feig, who gets Golding’s appeal and exploits it wonderfully. Yeoh is always perfection. Emilia Clarke is also great and is clearly pulling from her own personal experiences, however, there is much of her arc and personal journey that is undercut by bad pacing, poor cutting, and lack of focus.
While there is a ton of charm and good intentions behind this film, the final product doesn’t click into place as it should. All the pieces are there and the intent is clear, but sometimes that isn’t enough to make for an exceptional film. However, that being said, the film is still enjoyable. From the eager performers, some nice cameos, to the overwhelming use of Christmas decor, the heart of the film there is an enjoyable moviegoing experience to be had.