Last Christmas

Year: 2018
Production Co: Calamity Films
Studio: Universal
Director: Paul Feig
Writer: Emma Thompson
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson

Like knowing I have to eat a dinner that contains peas or squash, my expectations for this movie were impossibly limbo-line low. Romcoms as a genre don't do much for me to begin with, but aside from that (as a consequence of it, actually) I've seen enough of them to feel like I've seen everything they can possibly do.

It was also somewhat of a surprise that it's Paul Feig behind the megaphone. It's not that he's the best director who ever lived, but he's got a very recognisable brand of championing and enabling some of the best female comic talent in Hollywood.

Not only is Emilia Clarke not that (she's not bad, but she's no comic genius), but Last Christmas is a garden variety holiday themed romcom, even to the point it has the very modern movie motif of being inextricably mixed up with the music of a popular performer. It's certainly not a patch on the work he did with some of the funniest women in the business in Bridesmaids or even – for all its flaws – Ghostbusters.

Clarke is Kate, the kind of character described in this genre as a 'train wreck'. After a severe illness a year before that's only hinted at for most of the movie, she leads an existence that can barely be called life. She doesn't want to talk to her overbearing, critical Serbian family, especially her mother (Emma Thompson, who wrote the script).

She barely holds down a job as a sales assistant in a cheesy Christmas shop run by her erstwhile mother Santa (Michelle Yeoh), thinks she wants to be a singer but constantly hijacks her own chances, makes terrible choices with men and alcohol and has fewer friends to crash with all the time after burning bridges everywhere because of her behaviour and habits.

In other words – and especially owing to the fairy story London enclave where she lives and works – the chance of falling in love is stalking her like a serial killer.

It comes in the form of Tom (Henry Golding), a dreamer and seeming vagabond who volunteers at a local homeless shelter, rides a bike everywhere, has a ridiculously clean flat, never has his phone with him and lives by the mantra 'look up'. Does he start to melt Kate's sarcastic cynicism with his insistent attention, his understanding about her and his strong jawline? It's like asking if the rebels will destroy the Death Star or Brody will kill the shark.

The big twist about who Tom really is was pleasantly surprising because it was cleverly hidden by the machinations of the plot until the time was right, so there was at least one idea we haven't seen before.

But no matter how much of an impact it makes, it can't make up for litany of eye rolling tropes in the rest of the movie, from the self-deprecating but glamourous musical finish and gilded, fairy-lit cinematography to the nervy love affair Kate's ice queen boss embarks on (it's Christmas – everyone falls in love) and the way even starving homeless people are all fun loving, jolly souls.

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