Awkward Love: Our Review of ‘Last Christmas’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - November 07, 2019
Awkward Love: Our Review of ‘Last Christmas’

I’m going to have to compare Last Christmas with Paul Feig’s other movie Bridesmaids. It doesn’t have Bridesmaids’ depressing tonal shifts and unwieldy improvisation. Instead, the structure here has the air of stifling conventionality. Specifically in earlier scenes, this seems something less like an Emma Thompson screenplay and more like Seth McFarlane’s. Kate (Emilia Clarke) would talk about her screw-ups and it cuts to a reenactment of that screw-up. Anyway, Last Christmas is about Kate, a relate-able screw-up who avoids her mother Petra’s (Thompson) calls.

Kate works at Santa’s (Michelle Yeoh) kitschy all year gift shop while bombing at auditions for singing gigs. One day at work, though, she sees a man loitering in front of Santa’s store. That man turns out to be Tom Webster (Henry Golding) who, even though she’s not his type, asks him out for a ‘walk’. Audiences who have seen enough romantic comedies know where those walks lead. And the movie sets this budding romance to George Michael’s music, even though they’re living in 2019.

Recent comedies have supporting actors outshining their leads, but to this movie’s credit, all four main actors have their moments to shine. Yeoh’s Santa is a tough love kind of woman, looking at Kate cynically even when the latter does well. But she brings a vulnerability to a woman at the end of her rope. Golding adds physicality as a love interest, the elegant counterpoint to an awkward protagonist.

We have seen Game of Thrones know that Clarke’s open features make for a good canvas. She expresses innocence and hope in a cruel world, whether it be Westeros or London. As predictable as Last Christmas is, it still shows a cynical and witty side of Emilia Clarke. We’ve also heard her speak multiple languages as if she has done so all her life, which is perfect for playing a second generation immigrant.

And of course, Thompson givers herself the film’s best lines and jokes. Those jokes mostly have Petra navigating both the language and the sexual mores of the country she currently lives in. Her performance and screenplay tries to give context to immigrants like her who, as we see in some scenes, are targets of the Brexit movement. Her intentions are great here, but it still feel caricature-like.

Much of the discourse surrounding this movie concerns its twist ending, which some podcasters already predicted when the trailer came out. Its predictability is only part of my issue with it. There could have been a variation or two within that kind of ending and they still chose the safest way out. Predictability is fine but these actors, despite their best efforts, couldn’t strain themselves to sell that kind of ending.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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