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Dan's Review: Super-Sappy "Last Christmas" is Better Than That Awful Song

Nov 08, 2019 04:37PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding in Last Christmas - © 2019 Universal Pictures.

Last Christmas (Universal)

Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content.

Starring Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson, Rebecca Root, Lydia Leonard, Lucy Miller, Madison Ingoldsby, Patti LuPone, Ingrid Oliver, Rob Delaney, Peter Serafinowicz, Peter Mygind.

Written by Emma Thompson, Bryony Kimmings, and Greg Wise.

Directed by Paul Feig.

GRADE: B+

REVIEW:

Before I launch into this review of Last Christmas, allow me to declare something very important: I absolutely hate the 1984 pop holiday song written by George Michael. In my opinion, it is the worst Christmas song ever written or recorded and I cringe a thousand deaths every time it plays (somewhat incessantly) during the holidays. As I get older, I find myself increasingly annoyed at other holiday tunes, which seem to drone on about all sorts of Christmas stuff, while lyrics that might actually celebrate Christ’s birth receives less and less airtime. Which brings me back to my loathing of Last Christmas, because nothing says “birth of Christ” like a song that revels in being petty and vindictive over a failed relationship with your ex. Needless to say, I was already predisposed to equally loathe Last Christmas, a new romantic comedy loosely based on George Michael’s musical abomination. With every ounce of objectivity that I could muster, I forged ahead and attended the screening with the faint hope that the movie would somehow transcend its source material.

It’s the story of Katarina (Emilia Clarke), a party girl whose life is a series of drunken hook-ups and one-night stands, followed by a walk of shame to her job as a salesclerk in a Christmas store owned and operated by Santa (Michelle Yeoh). Katarina (or “Kate”) is a Yugoslav immigrant who escaped the war in her home country with her family, including her mother Petra (Emma Thompson), dad Ivan (Boris Isakovic) and sister Marta (Lydia Leonard). Kate drinks too much, has too many sexual encounters with strangers she picks up in bars, eats unhealthy foods and lacks any direction on life, depending on friends for support. One day, a handsome man named Tom (Henry Golding) appears in front of the Christmas store, immediately drawing her attention. Their chance meeting soon evolves into a strong friendship, as Kate learns a few hard lessons from the altruistic Tom about serving others instead of constantly seeking instant gratification. She also shares the secret of her family dysfunction with Tom, rooted in her “favorite daughter” status and a recent health scare that ended with a heart transplant. Kate begins to fall in love with Tom, who inspires her to be more selfless and serve others, particularly at a local homeless shelter. When Tom disappears for a few days, Kate begins to worry that he’s either gay or married. When he shows up, Tom explains the reason for his absence, which nearly breaks Kate’s already fragile heart (no spoilers, here but suffice to say it has something to do with her heart).

Last Christmas (the movie) is definitely a step up from its source material. You might interpret that statement as a veiled compliment, but it’s not. While deriving a storyline from the George Michael song lyrics, the film’s story is not about a jilted, petty lover who got dumped right after Christmas. That said, the movie is a super-sweet love story with a heart-wrenching twist that will surely elicit tears from anyone with an overemotional disposition. If not for the star quality of Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, and Michelle Yeoh, it might barely qualify as a Hallmark Channel movie. So, it’s a good thing Last Christmas has the celebrity gravitas it does because I could definitely see a squad of B-listers taking over the same script. Perhaps <that song> adds a little more gravitas to an otherwise sappy movie, but it’s a curse we’ll have to live with, I suppose.

Speaking of Clarke, she’s definitely a star on the rise, and has a knack for comedy that shines through in Last Christmas. Kudos to Emma Thompson as well (who also co-wrote and produced the film) for allowing the other players enough room to let their charms shine through without overindulging herself in the movie.

To review: Last Christmas song=bad. Last Christmas movie=sweet and fun, if not a little too sappy.   

"Last Christmas" Trailer

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