Friday Flicks November 8: “Last Christmas”

M.V. MoorheadNovember 2019
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Opening wide this weekend:

Last Christmas—The holiday season is here, whether we approve of it starting so early or not; the first Christmas movie of the season has opened. The title of this English romcom refers, of course, to the Wham! hit of 1984 penned by George Michael, and the soundtrack (and soundtrack album; the perfect stocking-stuffer) is packed with other Michael favorites. So for some audience members it might be a relief simply that it offers us a break from wall-to-wall holiday music.

The movie also offers a charming leading lady in the form of Emilia Clarke. The Game of Thrones and Solo star shows a puckish, mirthful energy as Kate, a young Londoner of Eastern European descent who works in elf drag at a Christmas decoration store, and who, through careless or reckless behavior, regularly screws up her own life and the lives of others. Kate meets a flawless hunky paragon (Henry Golding from Crazy Rich Asians) and the two hit it off, but he drifts in and out her life and can’t commit.

It need hardly be said that this movie is trying for a Richard Curtis, Love, Actually poignant-yet-festive flavor. If it doesn’t quite get there, the script, by Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings from a story Thompson wrote with her husband Greg Wise, nonetheless has lively dialogue and well-sketched characters. Director Paul Feig gets nice performances not only from Clarke—who sings in a fine, ringing belt as well—but from Golding’s Crazy Rich costar Michelle Yeoh as Kate’s boss, and from Thompson herself as Kate’s elaborately tragic-acting Balkan Mum.

Despite a reasonably well-executed plot twist, there’s nothing deeply original about Last Christmas, and some viewers may find its familiarity irksome. But I found it pleasant and even a little touching, early-season Scrooge though I am.

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