“Last Christmas,” the latest holiday romantic comedy out in theaters, has been highly anticipated for its acclaimed cast and soundtrack. But riddled with hackneyed tropes and distasteful humor, this attempt at a feel-good “yuletide romance” misses the mark by a long shot.
The film was directed by Paul Feig, who also brought us the “Ghostbusters” remake. “Last Christmas” stars Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) as Kate, a depressed young woman struggling to get her life together. While working in a Christmas shop, she meets the mysterious and charming Tom, played by Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians). Tom helps Kate become a better person as they develop a “romance.”
Clarke does an overall good job of portraying Kate as pessimistic, immature and selfish. Despite the dull and boring dialogue, she was able to show Kate’s personality through her animated facial expressions. Golding’s performance was not as expressive as Clarke’s, but this worked with the calming demeanor of his character. However, the real star of the show was Kate’s hideous leopard print jacket that she wears in practically every scene.
Although the two starring actors did fairly well with characterization, their performances were seriously lacking romantic chemistry, and the nature of their relationship was more macabre than anything else. Moreover, the few genuinely emotional or touching scenes were quickly interrupted by cringeworthy moments that diminished any sense of poignancy. One specific scene that comes to mind is when Kate is being vulnerable and tells Tom about her heart transplant and then Tom starts tenderly stroking Kate’s surgery scar. The scar-stroking came across as weird and unnecessary, and there are many such moments throughout the film which took away from the intended heartwarming effect.
Not only was the romance a disappointment, but so was the humor. In this so called “romantic comedy,” the jokes were elementary and nonsensical. For example, one of the characters’ supposedly “funny” traits is that he really likes pickled and fermented foods. Such comedic choices left me perplexed and wondering who actually thought this was funny. In addition, there were jokes made at the expense of Chinese people and homeless people that were just tasteless. For instance, Emilia Clarke’s character jokes about her boss (played by Michelle Yeoh) being her “usual curt Chinese self” and about Chinese people apparently going to “weird outlets” to buy things at a cheaper cost. To me, this felt like the movie was relying on trite unoriginal stereotypes to get laughs.
Naturally, a factor attracting many people to this film is the soundtrack consisting of songs by the pop icon George Michael. However, this seemed like an odd choice for a holiday romance movie and upon actually watching it, the upbeat music sometimes felt jarring and out of place with the unexpectedly depressing tone that the film took.
Finally, this film has been promoted as a feel-good Christmas movie, but Christmas was not really important to the plot whatsoever. Although the sets are saturated with holiday decorations, this story could have taken place during any time of the year and nothing about the plot would have changed. This is more like a “romantic comedy” with twinkle lights and wreaths sprinkled in the background.
In short, “Last Christmas” disappoints in almost every way. If you’re looking for a real holiday movie that is actually funny and heartwarming, watch “Elf” instead, a tried and true classic that hits every note “Last Christmas” tragically missed.