Main cast: Emilia Clarke (Katarina), Henry Golding (Tom Webster), Michelle Yeoh (Santa), Peter Mygind (Boy), Emma Thompson (Petra), Rebecca Root (Dr Addis), Lydia Leonard (Marta), Maxim Baldry (Ed), and Patti LuPone (Joyce)
Director: Paul Feig
Last Christmas is apparently inspired by the Wham! song of the same name, and this movie uses George Michael’s songs as part of its soundtrack. It is marketed as a romantic comedy, but let me warn you folks: this one is more chick-lit than romance. It follows a trajectory that will be familiar to chick-lit fiction readers – it’s mostly about Katarina’s character arc than the romance itself, and there is no conventional happily ever after here. Rather, it’s a happy ending with Kate finally finding a place in her life where she can be happy. Sure, Tom Webster will be an important part of her in that place, but take it from me: chick-lit, not romance.
Kate has had a recent health crisis, and having recovered from that, she is now at a crossroads and leaning towards taking the path that will let her make a complete mess of her life and take the people around her down with her. Of course, because she is a spunky heroine played by Emilia Clarke, Kate doesn’t really face any music from her screw-ups. Her employer, whom she calls Santa, keeps giving her another chance even after Kate’s carelessness results in a break-in at the store, and all the messes she heaps on the people around her are ultimately resolved with a trademark Emilia Clarke blinky-blinky expression. Ms Clarke has the same expression for everything from guileless haplessness to sexy horny time, so I personally how long they are going to pass her off as the next romantic comedy darling, especially with that lack of range of hers.
Back to Kate, in addition to whining and complaining about her first world problems, she also meets Tom Webster, a man who is really too good to be true. In fact, he exists to be her emotional tampon. He soaks in all her whining and neurotic insecurities, assures her that she is really awesome in spite of her constant messiness, and even loves her for being such a mess. In other words, he’s the typical chick-lit hero and this is a typical chick-lit fantasy of a woman who gets to be as much of a hot mess failure as she wants, and is still considered precious and lovable at the end of the day. Sure, Kate eventually cleans up her act, but that’s because she thinks she’s finally met her true love. In other words, it’s a man, not her own agency, that is the catalyst for her self improvement.
This movie is also populated with stereotypical secondary characters: the mostly absent father, the toxic and neurotic mother, the sister whom Kate doesn’t get along well with. The racial stereotypes are out in full force too under the guise of this movie being woke: Michelle Yeoh puts on a cringe-inducing fresh off the boat accent that she never uses in real life for her character, her character’s love interest is basically a castrated version of an Eurotrash prince charming, people of color exist to be oppressed in scenes to show off how woke our white heroine is, and more. Meanwhile, the script – co-written by Emma Thompson – wields preachy messages like a Viking bent of cutting down the Normans in his path. Because it is so smug and patronizing in its efforts to be woke, the social worker characters can come off as repulsively judgmental (the sole exception is one bloke, and that’s because he wants to get into Kate’s pants) and the people of color come off as victims that exist to allow the white characters to show off their savior complex and feel good about themselves. The whole story, therefore, feels like a mediocre chick-lit novel with woke elements and tokenism clumsily injected in in order to boost the woke credentials of all the white people involved in the making of this movie.
The result is a mechanical movie that goes through the motions of being a clichéd chick flick while lacking any sincerity or nuance. The main actors are bland, but to be fair, the script only requires them to smile or make forced facial expressions while mouthing off lines that try way too hard to be cool and sitcom-y. There’s no room for Ms Clarke or Henry Golding to show off any range that they may or may not have. The twist at the end isn’t particularly smart either – I actually guess correctly what the twist is the moment the movie clumsily drops clues about the upcoming twist.
All in all, this is a movie that is more at home in Hallmark’s parade of banal Christmastime chick flick marathon than the big screen. Best to just wait for it to hit streaming services if you really want to this thing.