When thinking of Christmas, it reminds us of happiness. It brings the family together to celebrate with one another. It is a season of joy, love, and hope. As the song says, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
Paul Feig’s Last Christmas officially ushers in the Christmas season. Though we still have Thanksgiving to go before we actually get to Christmas, but this is a perfect film to get you in the holiday mood. This is a movie that is loaded with charm, laughs, heart, and just enough cheesiness to remind you what Christmas is all about.
Kate (Emilia Clarke) is a young woman who is constantly making bad decisions. From heavy drinking and one night stands to being late to singing auditions and working as an elf in a department store, nothing in her life seems to be going well. One day, she meets a weird man staring at a bird outside her store named Tom (Henry Golding), who asks Kate if she would like to go on a walk with him and begins to help Kate turn her life around.
Emilia Clarke will forever be known as Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons from Game of Thrones. Though I only saw a few episodes of the show, I never found her performance in the show to be anything great. She seemed very stiff, which might be because of the character, but it didn’t work for me in the moments I saw her. However, Clarke has had a different career on the silver screen. Rather than playing similar characters to the one she played on Game of Thrones, Clarke plays lighter characters, quirkier, funnier characters and she does it very well. She is an absolute delight in Last Christmas. She really hones in on how big of a mess Kate is and gives us a toxic woman who is given a second chance. She never overdoes Kate’s messiness and understands that Kate will always try to make things seem better than they actually are. Clarke delivers a range of emotion, from sad and pathetic to quippy and glowing. Clarke is endlessly charming and you can’t help but fall in love with Kate throughout the movie.
Henry Golding is equally as charming and just as good as Clarke. Breaking out in 2018 in Crazy Rich Asians and the Feig-directed A Simple Favor, Golding’s star continues to shine and his screen presence is that of someone on the rise. Tom’s optimism of life and the way he looks at the world is lovely, always telling Kate to “look up” and watching him help Kate turn her life around melts your heart. Golding’s winning personality and charisma, along with a smile that would be hard for anyone to say no too, make it believable that Kate would follow this man on his crazy journey’s. The two have an incredible chemistry together and I would love to see them work together again.
Last Christmas could have easily been a Hallmark movie if it weren’t for the smart, witty script written by Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings and Feig’s top-notch direction. There are pieces to this movie that could have ended up being overly dramatic and bring the film down, like the one of Kate’s parents (played by Thompson and Boris Isakovic) immigrating from Yugoslavia, or Kate’s sister (Lydia Leonard) secretly being a lesbian, or Kate’s health issues. But Feig walks the line gently and uses these more as character pieces rather than plot points. What Feig really focuses in on is Kate and her emotional journey from a troubled mess to starting a new life. It’s a lovely journey to be on and I was rooting for Kate the whole way, even when she did do things that weren’t exactly great.
There is a moment in the third act that might throw people for a loop and turn them off from the film. This is a Christmas movie. If you look at the history of Christmas movies, there is a fantastical feel to all of them, from It’s a Wonderful Life, to Elf. This moment in the film is a bit fantastical but it worked for me because Feig didn’t lean on it. It’s rather a quick moment, but Feig recognizes that this is just another step in Kate’s journey towards becoming a better person and not the moment the film was building towards.
Led by lovely performances from Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, a great story, and the right amount of cheesiness, Last Christmas may not be a true Christmas classic yet, but it is a movie I wouldn’t mind watching every holiday season.
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