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maryann johanson, striking from a hidden base

Last Christmas movie review: give it your heart, get your heart stomped

Last Christmas yellow light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

Love and life are pain, the glitz and sparkle of Christmas are but a momentary reprieve from it, and everything is pretty much unrelentingly awful. But Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding are adorable!
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for movies by and about women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, female screenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

Look, just tell me what I need to do in order to snag me a manic pixie dream boy like Henry Golding.* How messed up do I have to be to get a gorgeous freespirit to come wandering into my life to charm me and unsettle me in the best way and fix everything that’s wrong with me and set me on a better path for myself? And also the smooching. Cuz I think I’m pretty messed up already, thankyouverymuch, and I am ready for this.

(*In fact, this movie kinda does tell me what I have to do in order to snag me a manic pixie dream boy like Henry Golding, and… nope. Fuck you, Last Christmas, for giving me hope and then snatching it away by reinforcing that love and life are pain, that the glitz and sparkle of Christmas are but a momentary reprieve from it, and that everything is pretty much unrelentingly awful. Goddamn.)

Last Christmas Henry Golding

All I want for Christmas is Henry Golding…

Anyway, Last Christmas is a wholly ridiculous movie. Whatever you’re imagining might be going on here, double it, and then throw in, I dunno, the rom-com narrative equivalent of some giant clown shoes and a cream pie in the face. And I kind of don’t care. I’m so hungry to see women like Emilia Clarke’s (Solo: A Star Wars Story, Me Before You) Kate onscreen: she’s simply a fucking personal disaster, and I feel so seen in ways that don’t happen often. I mean, very few of the specifics of Kate’s fucked-up-ness apply to me, but her overall confusion and disillusionment and general despair are things I am very much simpatico with. And that is so rare when I go to The Movies.

Also Henry Golding (A Simple Favor, Crazy Rich Asians) is delicious and his Tom so kind and sweet and funny and adventurous and — unlike way too many rom-com heroes — not stalkery or even problematic at all. Astonishing how rare this is. (The level of how unproblematic he is could be construed as a scathing critique of modern manhood: Dudes, you too could be as perfect a specimen of masculinity as Tom, if only [spoiler redacted]…

Last Christmas

True fact: This real London street also inspired Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley!

Here’s the best thing: I like Kate, even though she’s actually kind of horrible. She is mean to her mother (Emma Thompson [Men in Black: International, Late Night], also a coscreenwriter); her mom may be a bit overbearing, but she clearly means well. Kate is thoughtless and inconsiderate with friends who go out of their way to help her. She’s way too fucking old to be so juvenile. But I was rooting for her anyway; she’s not a bad person, she’s just had a bad year (feeling this). Clarke is deeply charming here; she’s a total 180 from her Game of Thrones white-savior mother-of-dragons last-minute psychopath. I’m not suggesting that it’s okay to be mean if you’re cute; I mean that I could see that she deserved to be better than she has been and to have the kind of life that would make her happy instead of miserable.

As Kate takes her journey from adorable dirtbag (shades of Eleanor Shellstrop and is this now a thing? if so, I approve) to reasonable approximation of an adult woman, there’s a lot of music by George Michael and Wham! here. Like, maybe too much. (I say this as a pretty major fan of the band and the man, child of the 80s as I am.) Like, maybe screenwriter-Thompson and her cowriter, Bryony Kimmings, took the lyrics of the Wham! song that lent the title to the movie a little too literally. It’s movie madness, I tell you. Whether the future decides that Last Christmas the movie is downright classic or simply too utterly bonkers to be accepted into the Christmas canon remains to be seen. I guess we can give everyone involved entertain-me brownie points for being willing to go so completely all-in on the “Last Christmas” stuff, but… *whew*

Last Christmas Emilia Clarke

Kate gets away with her crap — if only just — because she’s so darn cute…

If there’s too much Wham!, there’s not enough Rob Delaney or Peter Serafinowicz (who appear, shockingly, in only one scene, what?). There’s a decent amount of the incredible Michelle Yeoh (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Morgan), as Kate’s boss at the year-round Christmas shop she elfs at in Covent Garden, so that’s good but also just give Michelle Yeoh her own rom-com, please. There’s also a decent balance to be found in the movie’s teeter-totter between “fantasy fairy-lit London” and “depressingly realistic London.” Leave it to an unsentimental American filmmaker — director Paul Feig (Ghostbusters, Spy), who coincidentally just might be one of those rare male filmmakers who gets women and doesn’t talk down to us — to get that right.

This movie left me completely flumoxxed and not mostly in a good way, so that feels very 2019, at least.


Click here for my ranking of this and 2019’s other theatrical releases.



yellow light 3 stars

Last Christmas (2019) | directed by Paul Feig
US/Can release: Nov 08 2019
UK/Ire release: Nov 15 2019

MPAA: rated PG-13 for language and sexual content
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate sex references, language)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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