Everyone who was present and correct on the internet around 2013 will remember the short stories that would circulate the web, articulating the very specific moments in the relationships of an anonymous ‘boy’ and ‘girl’. Well, those long-since dead Tumblr stories have come to life in screenwriter Emma Thompson’s attempt at holiday romance, which has captured public imagination through its all-star cast and its commitment to having only George Michael’s greatest hits -hence the title- on its soundtrack.
Christmas films can, and are, elevated to cult and classic status far more easily than films released outside the holiday season. There is public thirst for a wide array of Christmas movies to see throughout the month of December. It seems only too obvious, then, that a film with a cast as good and budget as big as Last Christmas’s should tick all the boxes. And, in a way, I suppose it does: romance, Christmas lights, a mean but relatable boss. But this does not make Last Christmas a particularly good movie, unfortunately.
It seems that what the film has in star power and eighties pop music it lacks in anything else really of note. Emilia Clarke leads well, but doesn’t fill out the role in the way a good rom-com heroine should. We feel for Kate (as she insists on being nicknamed over her real name, Katerina, in that I have a difficult past way), but only because we are told too. Clarke fails to truly sell the self-destructing twenty-something persona – you just don’t quite believe that she’s having some sort of crisis, and instead just seems a bit dramatic. Likewise Henry Golding is full of charm and a smile that really could knock you out, but he is far from his best here. He and Clarke have chemistry, but the writing is so dependent on clichés that the two are not allowed to run with it. They seem boxed into their own characters, so strictly stuck to a regimented storyline that some scenes feel slightly unfinished, as if there were more to say. Conversations end in cringey, awkward ways that absolutely were not meant to be cringey or awkward, and you can feel the script carrying the actors through the motions in a paint-by-numbers way. There is a level of undiscovered potential in the film: a what could have been if the writing were a little better and the acting a little less obvious.
The film, obviously, isn’t focussed on obtaining Oscars. And it is definitely a crowd pleaser in the sense you feel somewhat warmly satisfied by the end. But the film’s shameless use of every cliché in the book doesn’t allow it to have any real impact on the audience whatsoever. It positions itself as something of a ‘serious’ rom-com – one about illness and family issues and whatnot – but fails to deliver emotionally. When it might have been charming, it falls flat in that clumsy, maybe-I’ll-shut-my-eyes way. But it is a Christmas film – and Christmas is approaching. So, if you enjoy a slice of George Michael with your typically bad yuletide film, then Last Christmas is a safe bet.
Image Credit: Simeon87 via Wikimedia