Cute-as-a-button flibbertigibbet Kate (Emilia Clarke), a talented singer with West End dreams who just can’t seem to catch a break, is stuck in something of a rut. Adrift in London, she’s sofa surfing, living out of a suitcase and crashing on mates’ couches and in their spare rooms, her nights spent getting drunk and shagging around, her days spent working as an elf/shop assistant in an all-year-round Christmas store in Covent Garden.

She’s a ditzy, shambolic, loveable mess but ditzy and shambolic is only cute for so long and Kate’s fast running out friends, her wild child ways alienating everyone around her. They’ve been cutting her some slack ever since that life-threatening event *LAST CHRISTMAS* but now everyone’s patience is wearing just that little bit thin and she really needs to get her act together.

Just when Kate seems doomed to a dissolute life of, frankly, quite wholesome slaggery, fate and a pooping bird conspire to bring mysterious manic pixie dream boy Tom (Henry Golding) into her life, a handsome, charming part-time bike courier who volunteers at the local homeless shelter and is determined to save Kate from herself, wooing her with romantic, late-night walking tours of a hidden London she never knew existed. But as the prickly Kate falls for him, Tom’s darkest secret comes back to haunt them…


Sheer, unadulterated bollocks!

That’s what Last Christmas is. It’s Disney’s Fleabag bunking up for the night with wholesome, vanilla Tyler Durden while Dickens’ A Christmas Carol nods with approval, all set to a jukebox soundtrack of George Michael classics. It is utter tosh! And if you don’t already know the film’s big, final act twist where have you been? Living in a cave? You’ll work it out pretty sharpish.

There is a part of me that kept hoping the film was gonna go somewhere a bit darker, that Tom might not be the angel he appears, that the reason he always seems to be wearing the same clothes is that he’s like Mickey Rourke’s monied S&M sociopath in 9½ Weeks with a closet full of multiple outfits all the same so he never has to waste time choosing what to wear and that eventually he’d humiliate Clarke’s Kate by having her crawl around on all fours for him while beating her with a wire coat hanger. Alas, this only happened in my fevered mind, the real reason is, well, you already know the twist…   

Admittedly, I don’t think I’m really the intended target market for Paul Feig’s homage to the horrors of that peculiar brand of blandly offensive Middle England rom-com. I am, after all, rather a mean-spirited turnip who genuinely believes that Richard Curtis is a true force of ancient evil, a red-trousered English cousin to Sinister’s family murdering Babylonian deity, rather than just a smug, talentless, middle class propagandist cheerfully perpetuating a vision of floppy haired, upper class English toxic masculinity masquerading as genial romantic comedy. Last Christmas may exist simply as the visual accompaniment to a drunken hen party’s worth of George Michael songs but it owes a huge debt to Curtis, as much a homage to his oeuvre as to Michael’s, a down-at-heel little sister to tripe like Love Actually, capturing and harnessing the spirit of his work, the London of Last Christmas, with its capering comedy homeless folk (none of whom try to show Clarke their ulcerated genitals or threaten her with a dirty needle on her way to the Tube in the morning) as realistic as Curtis’ petit bourgeois vision of Notting Hell. My biggest gripe though is I like my rom-coms, well, with a bit more rom. And ideally a healthy dose of com. And that’s the greatest failing of Last Christmas. It’s neither romantic nor funny.

The cast are great and try much harder than the script deserves. Emilia Clarke is a gifted light comedienne and a likeable presence, Golding’s a good-looking chap but there’s little real chemistry between them, co-writers Emma Thomson and Bryony Kimmings failing to give them anything funny or profound or even believable to do or say, their meetings little more than meet-cute excuses to deploy classic George Michael songs. The sad, soppy moments you expect are still there and still tug at the heartstrings. But they tug at the heartstrings because Playing For Time is a great song rather than because Clarke and Golding are a great tragi-romance for the ages. There’s strong, if not comfortable, support from Michelle Yeoh as Clarke’s comedy Chinese Dragon Lady caricature boss whose own meet-cute romance with a middle aged sauerkraut enthusiast feels as unreal as Clarke and Golding’s while someone really should have wrestled Head Girl Emma Thompson to the ground in order to prevent her playing Clarke’s mother as a broad, Babushka-esque Croatian mama.

But here’s the thing; I wanted to like Last Christmas, I really did. It may not be as funny or romantic or kooky as it thinks it is but it’s heart is in the right place. Like the two Paddington films before it, it’s a staunch, unsubtle hymn to diversity and multiculturalism, a plea for tolerance, a celebration of difference, taking aim at the festering racism and bigotry of Brexit that’s poisoning our society and made us an object of ridicule and pity on the world stage. For all it’s capering homeless and can medy Eastern European matrons it’s arguably angrier than Ken Loach’s latest, confronting head on the harassment and persecution our right wing demagogues have unleashed even if it is in service of Kate’s redemptive third act. And Last Christmas tries to do all that as part of a would-be heartwarming, Christmas rom-com that’s USP is George Michael’s back catalogue. I can’t help but feel he’d approve.

Movie Review: Last Christmas
2.0Overall Score
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