You won’t find a lump of coal in this corny, but good-hearted Christmas Story
Christmas movies seem to have lost their spirit as the 2010s come to a close. For one thing, they used to wait until Thanksgiving to come out on VHS and DVD. Nowadays, they just immediately come on Blu-Ray and Digital Download in February or March. Why iOS everyone so impatient?
And for another reason, they tend to be all corny and annoying. In “Love the Coopers,” June Squibb blamed it on the dog at the dinner table, in “Almost Christmas,” a child was abused by his parents and aunt for laughs, and in “A Bad Moms Christmas,” Cheryl Hines was watching her daughter prepare to make love with her husband. What happened to the love that “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Elf” has sparkled over the years? I ask you.
I’m thankful we get to watch these classics every holiday to remind us of the love we can give to others, and that until the next Christmas classic comes out, a little appetizer is in order. In a recent line, I liked “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” the Illumination-produced “Grinch,” and now, Paul Feig’s second Christmas film “Last Christmas.”
Yes, it’s silly and weird, but underneath it all, it has a good heart in the right place, and its love for the late George Michael’s hits livens the tone and spirit up. Obviously, that’s why the movie is called “Last Christmas.” That and we hear different covers of it throughout the film.
Emilia Clarke stars as Katarina or “Kate” as she calls herself, a singer from Yugoslavia, who moved to England with her family when she was a child. She survived a heart transplant, but came out a different woman. She becomes drunk and selfish, and has a difficult relationship with her dysfunctional family. Emma Thompson (the co-writer and co-producer) is her worrywart mother, Boris Isakovic is her driver father, and Lydia Leonard is her lesbian sister.
She works at a local Christmas shoppe, where her boss nicked named Santa (Michelle Yeoh) always pokes fun at her incompetence, although she does commit insurance fraud just to cover her tail when vandals attack the store, after she leaves the door unlocked. And there’s a typical romantic fling between Santa and a dreamy customer (Peter Mygind).
Kate also finds herself in a typical romantic fling with the mysteriously charming Tom (Henry Golding), whose motto is “Look up.” That means she can’t keep looking at the same area all the time, and to literally gaze up. He also learns about her transplant, and teaches her: “there’s no such thing as normal.” Probably not original, but I have acknowledged that saying.
Once we get to know these two characters, wonderfully portrayed by Clarke and Golding, we see that “Last Christmas” actually has a nice side. The British humor in the second half makes up for the first half, and the drama feels sincerely touching. It isn’t all whiny and negative. It leaves you supporting for the main girl and her illness.
This isn’t a brilliant comedy masterwork at the level of “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat,” or “A Simple Favor,” but Paul Feig is able to take some risks by not letting the humor consume the tragedy the heroine has gone through.