Elf on the Shelf

‘Last Christmas’: A Holiday Rom-Com Muddle With a George Michael Soundtrack

The first thing you should consider before going to see this year’s holiday rom-com Last Christmas is that the Cats trailer will likely play during the previews, and you should avoid the Cats trailer at all costs. It will sour you for nearly anything you’re going to see, and make you question Dame Judy Dench’s sanity. Force one poor sot to sit through the previews. She can text the rest of your party when they’re over so you can safely take your seats.

LAST CHRISTMAS ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: Paul Feig
Written by: Emma Thompson, Greg Wise, Bryony Kimmings
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh
Running time: 102 min


Second, if you have a visceral dislike for George Michael’s music, don’t see this film. This movie is an ode to the George Michael canon. There’s also a disturbing Christmas gibbon, an instance of Emilia Clarke uttering the words “less legs” instead of “fewer legs,” and Henry Golding riding his bicycle around London with his helmet DANGLING FROM HIS HANDLEBARS. It’s enough to make any sensible person, with a decent grasp of the English language and a healthy disdain for creepy holiday ornaments, nearly apoplectic. And that’s if you find George Michael reasonably tolerable.

Anyhow, this almost exposition-free (I wish I meant that in a good way) film starts off with Henry Golding appearing for no discernible reason. Emilia Clarke’s character, forgettably named Kate, becomes smitten with him for an even-less-discernible reason…other than that Henry Golding is dreamy. If you like Henry Golding and enjoy close-ups of his dewy eyes, this film is worth your time. You won’t get to see him sexy and shirtless, though. If that’s a deal-breaker, rewatch Crazy Rich Asians instead. Or A Simple Favor.

Kate, the hapless protagonist, works as an elf in a year-round Christmas shop. Her boss, Santa, played by Michelle Yeoh, also has a suitor appear out of nowhere. We never learn anything about him, or become invested in him, and I couldn’t understand the entire purpose of that plot point. Kate is a fuck-up. She’s recovering from being seriously ill. She over-drinks nightly at bars, and goes home with men she doesn’t know, even after dreamy Henry appears. I should call him Tom. His character’s name is Tom Webster. He’s a bit otherworldly. He drags Kate through London, telling her to look up at many enchanting, twinkly lights. Tom takes her to a secluded garden, down dark alleyways, and into a deserted ice rink. London-at-Christmas is, perhaps, the star of this film, with the actors merely babbling their way through it.

Tom disappears a lot, doesn’t have a phone, and seems a bit concerned about Kate getting too attached to him. There’s a beautifully intimate scene where Kate reveals to him that she’s had a heart transplant and that she’s not felt like herself since. She unbuttons her shirt to expose the top of her still-pink scar. When Tom reaches out to touch it, most smart filmgoers will realize where this story is headed. Side note to the filmmakers: if you’re going to have a character’s identity revolve around an illness and medical crisis, and you show a noticeable scar in that woman’s cleavage, that scar needs to be visible during the film’s final crane shot that peers down her decolletage.

Last Christmas has all the elements of a solid holiday film, but director Paul Feig has tossed them together like a careless rom-com salad. The result is some lovely bits in a rather aimless mess. The performances are all fine, but the material doesn’t particularly tax anyone and wastes Michelle Yeoh’s ample talents in particular. I shed a few tears, laughed a couple times, and smiled warmly at the heartfelt holiday moments. I also literally squealed in delight when one of my former students appeared on screen, but unless you also know Laila Alj, I doubt this will resonate with you in the same way.

If you’re yearning for a holiday film, enjoy looking at Emilia Clarke and/or Henry Golding, and have a soft spot for George Michael, you’ll like this film. You probably won’t love it. Don’t go in with high expectations. Know that you’ll hear Emma Thompson say, “I will nail you to my dick,” in a Slavic accent. It’s the holiday film one-liner I didn’t know I needed.

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Mia McCullough

Mia McCullough is a playwright and filmmaker. Her plays have been seen around the country at various theatres including Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Old Globe, Red Fern Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, and Chicago Dramatists. Season One of her web series The Haven is available on OTV/ www.weareo.tv and her book Transforming Reality, on the creative writing process, is available on www.lulu.com.

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