Depending on your age, sex, and general outlook Richard Curtis’s LOVE ACTUALLY is either the best Christmas-themed romantic comedy or it is the worst. The comedy deludes your senses with its talented ensemble cast and multiple stories on different aspects about love. Maybe too many stories – and with writing that hampers the actresses opposite their requisite beaus. One of those women, Emma Thompson, looks to change that with LAST CHRISTMAS, which is marketed as a traditional romantic comedy but whose gift-wrapped nature suggests something more than a rom-com.
Romance plays a big part in a story that pairs a self-destructing Emilia Clarke with the handsomely Henry Golding. It has the requisite meet-cute, with Clarke’s Kate, a cynical blonde with a disaffected stare, and Golding’s Tom, a Londoner that shows her the beauty that exists if you take the time to “look up.” That’s his big advice. Tom seems to appear whenever Kate is going through a rough patch, and offers sugary morsels of knowledge during their long walks and excursions together.
Those rough patches Kate goes through involve her family. Walking the cobblestone streets with her rolling suitcase in tow, Kate imposes on friends and one-night stands for a place to sleep just so she can avoid living at home with her mother, Petra (Thompson), and father, Ivan (Boris Isakovic). She’s also not on good speaking terms with her sister, Marta (Lydia Leonard), who lives in a separate flat but makes the time to check in on mom and dad.
The caustic family relations stems from immigrating to England from war-torn Yugoslavia and a life-threatening condition that almost killed Kate. Petra went from being high strung to being very watchful of her daughter, creating friction between the two. Ever since she was a little girl, Kate showed promise as a singer but, because of her illness, never fulfilled her potential. Now she works as an elf at a Christmas shop run by “Santa” (Michelle Yeoh).
Gee, a cynical Christmas elf that meets a man that seems too good to be true. The resolution should likely involve a romance that lasts well beyond Christmas and into the new year. That’s to be expected. But Thompson, who co-wrote the screenplay, applies a twist to story and makes good on the title’s inspiration (the 1980s holiday pop hit from WHAM!).
Paul Feig took a stab at dark comedy (A SIMPLE FAVOR) with mixed results. LAST CHRISTMAS is him being schmaltzy and manipulative yet sincere. So it’s a Hallmark movie that bypassed the network because of its bigger production value and charming leads.
George Michael songs pepper the soundtrack, and Kate’s fondness of the artist and ‘80s music in general is not lost. The ring tone for her mother is Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy.” And with lugging a roller-bag around from place to place, I was wondering if Kate would be better off with a DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN suitcase.
As we enter the season of prestige flicks and family entertainment, this may become a box office casualty. But with a delightful Emilia Clarke, scene-stealing Emma Thompson, and Henry Golding picking up the slack for guys everywhere, LAST CHRISTMAS is harmlessly entertaining and will likely find itself among the Christmas-themed titles populating TV networks in the years to come during the holiday season.
Rated PG-13, 102 minutes.
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh, and Lydia Leonard
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!