Thursday, November 7, 2019

"Last Christmas" (2019) film review



Year: 2019
Running Time: 102 minutes
Director: Paul Feig
Writers: Emma Thompson (story and screenplay), Greg Wise (story) and Bryony Kimmings (screenplay)
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh, Lydia Leonard, Boris Isakovic, Peter Mygind

Last Christmas is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed by Universal Pictures.

Paul Feig's latest, inspired by George Michael's Christmas anthem, Last Christmas, may be as cluttered as an over-decorated Christmas tree. It is as predictable as a holiday movie can be, but is nevertheless a fun, uplifting, and heartwarming addition to the genre.With the exciting combination of Feig's direction and Emma Thompson's screenwriting, Last Christmas delivers everything a Christmas film promises with it's story, themes, music and visuals all in the holiday spirit.

Last Christmas is an interesting take on a Christmas film, as it attempts to blend the stereotypical features of such a film with social issues and themes that are not so typical. The film tries hard to do perhaps too much and is very busy as a result, though it is still admirable how much it gets done in it's 102 minute run time. Of course, the film ticks every box of a Christmas genre film and how comprehensively this task is completed will strike many as completely tiresome, though it will be a Christmas lovers delight.

Our down-on-her-luck heroine, Kate (Emilia Clarke) is living a destructive lifestyle while begrudgingly working in a London Christmas store as an elf. While attempting to chase after her dream of being a singer with no luck or great commitment, she meets a charismatic and mysterious stranger, Tom (Henry Golding) who helps her see the magic in life and inspires Kate to turn her life around. It's a story which we have seen many times before in countless rom-coms and Christmas films alike. Although the story itself isn't at all unpredictable or exhilarating, it is executed in such a way that it still manages to hit the mark and be uplifting, inspirational and moving.


At the Sydney Premiere of Last Christmas, Feig spoke of the unquestionable star power of Emilia Clarke and that is exactly what she exhibits in the film. Kate takes the leap from being an unlikable character to one that the audience completely falls and feels for, especially when it comes to her relationship with Golding's Tom. Yes, the screenplay plays you as it wants you to connect and relate to Kate, which can feel manipulative and irritating. However, in the holiday spirit it is forgiven and it is a credit to Clarke's performance that she is able to create a warmth to her character. Golding, who is the picture perfect love interest, lifts his performance to meet Clarke's and the two have great chemistry which adds to the audience's emotional investment in the film.

Despite the constant onslaught of fairy lights, colourful tinsel, disturbing Christmas tree decorations sold by Santa (Kate's boss hilariously played by Michelle Yeoh) and expected festive music, Last Christmas does try to be more than a holiday film that ticks all the boxes. The film is not only based on the 1986 Wham! classic that is played in every shopping outlet approximately 500 times during every holiday season, but it is a tribute to George Michael and his musical legacy. Last Christmas features not only the song it takes it's name after, but also many of his hit singles and a newly released song never heard before. There are also several Wham! and George Michael Easter eggs throughout the film, making this film a less obvious cinematic tribute to the man who passed three years ago this Christmas.

The film also touches on, but does not venture too far into, the effects of immigration, health problems and homelessness (an issue that was close to George Michael's heart) on families. With Kate's family moving from Yugoslavia when she was younger to escape the war, her family still struggles with adapting to a new life in the United Kingdom. Her father cannot find work in the profession he was trained in and her mother (played by Emma Thompson) struggles to let go of her old ways, both which are having a negative effect on their family. Emma Thompson convincingly plays the eastern European mother, taking quirks that many will recognise from their own mothers and turning them into comedy.


Last Christmas does unfortunately not get to the true heart of any of it's more serious themes. The reason behind this is that it really does try to do too much. The screenplay brings us to the brink of these more serious issues (especially the homeless epidemic), and then pulls us back so that we remember that this is first and foremost a Christmas film. This is the greatest downfall of Last Christmas. It really tries to be a Christmas movie to set it apart from other Christmas movies, but instead it just becomes a very, very busy Christmas movie that tries to say more than it does.

However, the bottom line is that Last Christmas really is an enjoyable and uplifting film for the holiday season that will be a staple for December viewing for many years to come. It is evident that Paul Feig and Emma Thompson have really tried to bring more to the table with this comforting reminder of how wonderful it is to be alive, but it is simply a case of trying to do too much and ending up with too much noise playing alongside the Christmas carols.

6.5/10

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