Love them or hate them, there’s no escaping the films that come with the holiday season. Everyone has a favorite – or least favorite – Christmas movie, and there’s plenty to go around.
The latest romantic comedy by Paul Feig, Last Christmas, is one such film. Released on November 8th, Last Christmas takes a rather bold move by hitting theaters well over a month before Christmas. Even with its pre-December release date, Feig’s film not only pays off, but it may just have what it takes to be a Christmas classic for years to come.
Last Christmas follows the rather mundane life of Kate (Emilia Clarke), an aspiring singer in London who can’t catch a break. Clumsy and overly-sarcastic, Kate stumbles through her day job as an elf in a Christmas-themed store. During a painfully regular day at work, Kate meets Tom (Henry Golding) a charming, yet mysterious stranger who appears out of the blue. Tom takes her through the alleyways and parks of London, showing her there’s more to life than the constant struggle she’s facing. The more Kate learns about Tom, the more she learns to appreciate the little things in life. Among those little things are the people she meets, who can quickly vanish before she realizes it, including Tom.
At first glance, Last Christmas seems like another hokey Christmas film. The main character is a typical cynic who thinks nothing of the season, only to have a mysterious stranger bring out the Christmas spirit and reshape her outlook on life. It is not exceptional by any means. Yet, the secret to Last Christmas’ magic is just that – it does not try to be exceptional. Feig’s film takes the essential elements of a traditional Christmas story and goes to work.
Emilia Clarke does a marvelous job as Kate, and she doesn’t go overboard with the humor. Kate is crass and uncoordinated, but Clarke doesn’t make her into an obnoxious brat. The audience learns that Kate is a survivor of a heart transplant, which has left a significant impact on her life. She’s a young lady in her mid-20s trying to make it in this overly competitive world, and her struggles are compounded by the fact that she’s aware of how life can end at any moment. Audiences can easily relate to these struggles and Clarke – herself a survivor of two brain aneurysms – is perfectly qualified to deliver the performance.
Clarke’s counterpart, Henry Golding, also gives it his all in bringing his character to life. Tom is jovial and, at the same time, reserved in an almost mentor-like fashion. Golding doesn’t play up the overly-romantic trope of his character, so much as he gives Tom the feel of an Average Joe who has a much deeper outlook on life than meets the eye. His character is dreamy, but not unrealistic in any sense.
The remaining ensemble of characters also have a wonderful impact on the story. One of the more memorable characters is “Santa” (Michelle Yeoh), a bitter lady who serves as Kate’s boss. Even when Kate faces homelessness, “Santa” is overly demanding and unsympathetic to her employee’s plight. However, the more audiences get to know her, the clearer it becomes that she too is struggling to make it in this world. Yeoh’s character may, or may not, be the primary villain of Last Christmas, but the fact of the matter is that she’s as believable and relatable as any other human being. Almost all of Last Christmas’s characters have these qualities, and this allows audiences to bond with the people Kate meets in her journey.
One aspect of Feig’s film that cannot be overlooked is the setting. As Kate comes from an immigrant family, she occasionally witnesses the bigotry that comes with this modern resurgence of nationalism in the wake of Brexit. Though they come in brief spurts, such ugly moments leave a significant impact on those affected. However, this further encourages the hopeful message of Feig’s film. Through all of life’s dark moments, there is much to enjoy by just being alive. Feig’s tale manages to get this message across without telling audiences what to think, and this is what makes Last Christmas a compelling film.
While seemingly unoriginal, Last Christmas may become one of those films that becomes a cult hit in years to come. It may not be remembered as the most remarkable Christmas movie, but it still tells a great story and introduces audiences to wonderful characters. Above all, it shows how life in a seemingly hopeless world can also be wonderful. Audiences of all ages will relate to Kate’s struggles, and they will also find comfort in Tom’s encouraging message about cherishing life while they still have it.
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Last Christmas is a Christmas story in every sense and proud of it, taking a simple Christmas formula and crafting a wonderful story out of it. Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding deliver wonderful performances, bringing forth laughs and even tears.
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