Based on the most Dad-joke reading possible of the first two lines of the Wham! song “Last Christmas”, Paul Feig’s slight rom-com wears its genre clichés on its sleeve and uses copious fairy lights and tinsel to distract from its threadbare plot.
Kate (Emilia Clarke) is a cynical, self-destructive Christmas shop worker, estranged from her family and rapidly running out of friends to exploit for a place to stay as she finds herself trapped in a self-pity spiral following a serious health scare the previous year. Enter the enigmatic Tom (Henry Golding), a charming yet oddly elusive young man who may just be exactly what Kate needs to finally heal.
Written by Emma Thompson, Greg Wise and Bryony Kimmings, “Last Christmas” has a few good ideas and offers at least mild amusement on a semi-regular basis but it’s way below Thompson’s usual standard and lacks her usual trademark trenchant wit at almost every turn. It never quite feels like a cohesive movie and more like an attempt to resurrect, rehabilitate and reassemble discarded potential sub-plots of “Love, Actually” into a single narrative.
The main cast are good without ever troubling greatness. Michelle Yeoh’s quirkiness might feel a little forced but she manages to make it work nonetheless. The side-story of Kate’s sister, though, feels hasty, underdeveloped and, in a weird way, like a milquetoast copy of “Fleabag”. Of course, the film succeeds or fails on how much you buy into the chemistry between Clarke and Golding. Golding is as charming as you could hope for and while Emilia Clarke always comes across as an eminently likeable individual, she also seems to have an unerring tendency to act as a reaction inhibitor when it comes to screen chemistry (outside of her breakout TV role). The script hits all the right notes but it never feels anything but clumsy and inorganically rushed, which is a shame because there’s a decent enough movie here even if it is basically “Fight Club” for the RomCom crowd.
The most grating thing, though, is that it doesn’t need to be a Christmas film. It’s a Christmas film in much the same way as “Die Hard” is and the story would work just as well without the festive trimmings. The only reason it needs to be at Christmas is because it’s raiding the back catalogue of George Michael and ‘Last Christmas’ makes for a much more obvious romantic comedy jumping-off point than, say, ‘I Want Your Sex’ but surely we could have considered ‘Club Tropicana’ and had Michelle Yeoh running a Caribbean-themed SoHo nightclub instead of the forced jollity of this yuletide yarn? It doesn’t even use any of the other George Michael songs in clever, thematic or plot-relevant ways either, it just dumps the same handful of songs into scenes over and over again without even a sniff of ‘Wham Rap!’.
It’s nowhere near the self-proclaimed ‘best Christmas film of the decade’ the posters promise and it’s not even the last Christmas film of the decade thanks to the likes of Netflix and Disney+ but, I suppose, it looks to be the last theatrical Christmas film of the decade so you might want to go and see it while its in the cinema because it’s unlikely to force its way into your annual Christmas movie playlist in years to come.