I’m just going to admit it; I love a bad Christmas film. There is no such thing as a good Christmas film, they’re all terrible by default and perfect just as they are. The Holiday is so sugary it’ll make your teeth hurt, yet I somehow watch it at least three times every December. I can’t stand Will Ferrell’s other films, but Elf is a modern classic. And Home Alone 2 beats the first one by a mile.
The point is that no matter how good the intentions of the filmmaker, holiday-themed films will always suck. And so does Last Christmas, unfortunately.
The film follows young Kate, who is a bit of a mess. Her leopard print coat is dirty, her eye make-up smudgy and her eating habits terrible, never mind the casual sexual partners of questionable nature. She doesn’t actually have a home of her own, but she refuses to go back to her strict Yugoslavian parents. Overall, Kate just can’t catch a break. Then she meets Tom, a dashing London gentleman who leads her on a journey of self-discovery.
Last Christmas has everything it needs to be an awfully good holiday film; talented and ridiculously attractive cast, a script penned by Emma Thompson, music by George Michael and London as your location. Yet somehow the film never really gets going, never really engages with you. Admirably, Last Christmas attempts to tackle some heavy stuff with subplots of homelessness and Brexit-shenanigans but this is ultimately a very unfocused film. It’s not cheesy enough to be a so-bad-it’s-good -film but it doesn’t really know what to do with its subplots to make this an important, timely film either.
Emilia Clarke, best known as Khaleesi on Game of Thrones seems to really play herself here. Kate is bubbly, if a little unlucky in life. Clarke beautifully underlines her performance with sadness and tragedy, which doesn’t fully come apparent until the film’s final third. Henry Golding, so dashing in Crazy Rich Asians and in Paul Feig’s last film A Simple Favour, once again injects the film with some much-needed charm. Although Golding has effortless, easy energy and Clarke is irresistible, the two never really click. Despite the solid performances from both, the two leads are better on their own than they are together.
This should be a film that lights up like a Christmas tree when the two share a scene or – gasp – a kiss, but there’s barely any chemistry between Clarke and Golding. It’s not for the lack of trying though, they both do their best, but their scenes feel constructed and overly quirky, there’s not even a hint of genuine emotion here. There’s also a twist you can see coming a mile away, which begs the question of why not just reveal it at the beginning and have fun with it.
It’s also a shame that Kate as a character is a truly terrible person. It’s hard to feel any sympathy for her when we aren’t allowed a peek into her inner, private life. Clarke attempts to bring some nuance into the character and in a scene towards the end, her façade breaks down in a truly heart-breaking manner, but it’s all too little, too late. Last Christmas feels like a stuffed turkey, but someone forgot to add some salt and spice.
Another oddity in the film is Michelle Yeoh, who plays Kate’s boss Santa. There’s much that could be said with her character and there’s some clever stuff here regarding her name, but it’s another character and sub-plot that never goes anywhere and Yeoh’s talents are utterly wasted. Emma Thompson, however, seems to be having plenty of fun as Kate’s mother. Armed with a heavy accent, Thompson is a bold caricature that might come across racist if it wasn’t done with so much heart.
Feig is a director who seems to produce as many hits as he does misses. The director, who has more than proven his talent with films like Spy and Bridesmaids, has no recognisable style of his own and nothing separates Last Christmas from any other Christmas film out there in the stratosphere. It’s visually bland and although the posters and trailers advertise the film’s use of George Michael songs, they’re never utilised properly here. This could have been the decade’s best cheese-fest with outrageous and hilarious musical numbers and campy outfits, but it’s all a little sanitised to leave a mark of any kind.
We all turn to those frosty, gingerbread -infused holiday films for their sugary sweet romances, but Last Christmas tries so hard to be a serious, proper film, it forgets to let us enjoy the central romance. It all feels very fabricated, you can pinpoint the exact moment you’re supposed to cry, but Feig never earns our tears.
Despite the two great, but rather individual performances, Last Christmas ends up being a disappointment. There are some solid laughs throughout, but not enough to be satisfying. Last Christmas may be perfectly bad, but it just isn’t cheesy or fluffy enough to be a new Christmas classic.
Dir: Paul Feig
Scr: Emma Thompson, Bryony Kimmings
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson
Prd: Erik Baiers, Jessie Henderson, David Livingstone, Emma Thompson
DOP: John Schwartzman
Music: Theodore Shapiro
Country: UK – USA
Runtime: 102 min
Last Christmas hits UK cinemas 15th November