Kate (Emilia Clarke) is a Yugoslavian refugee living in England along with her mom (Emma Thompson), dad (Boris Isakovic) and sister (Lydia Leonard). She works at an all-year Christmas store where she seems to be the only employee besides the shop’s owner Santa (Michelle Yeoh). Despite having a job, Kate is something of a mess. She’s essentially homeless – refusing to move back in with her parents because of her mom’s constant worry as Kate is recently over being sick – gets drunk on an almost nightly basis, and hooks up with just about every guy she finds while out getting plastered.
One day, Kate meets Tom (Henry Golding), an attractive but unusual man who literally dances around everywhere when he’s not riding his bike. Tom doesn’t judge Kate, despite there being a lot to judge. Instead, he tries to get her to lighten up and enjoy life, showing her around his favorite hidden gems of the city and reminding her to “look up”. He tries to convince her to give back to the community and those in her life, rather than just taking all the time.
Kate goes from putting up with Tom’s antics to looking forward to their time together to falling in love with him fairly quickly, despite the fact they never have sex (we see her have multiple one-night stands, so abstinence is a pretty big thing for her). When every aspect of Kate’s life seems to be on thin ice, she turns to Tom for strength and guidance.
Last Christmas looked like such a cute, fun holiday rom-com in the hundreds of trailers I saw of it invading my weekly TV watching I didn’t put up much of a fight when my fiancée – fellow reviewer Annette Palmer – dragged me to see it. She loves a good, cheesy Christmas movie and Last Christmas looked like it would fit the bill nicely. There’s so many of these things popping up on Hallmark every year, so what could possibly go wrong with seeing on in theaters? Unfortunately, I should have fought harder.
Somehow, this script took 3 writers to get it to the big screen: actor Greg Wise (a “story by” credit is his first writing credit), Bryony Kimmings (ditto) and co-star Emma Thompson (an Academy Award winner for Best Adapted screenplay for Sense and Sensibility, besides her acting career). I’d love to hear how they got this movie off the ground, because the story is just convoluted and boring. You’d think having Paul Feig directing (his first effort since the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot) there would be more than a few funny moments, which I assume are more from Emma Thompson’s obvious comedic timing, but overall the film was flat.
There was no spark to be seen anywhere, no fun to be had. There were far too many stories trying to be told at once… a story of budding romance, a story of a loser (who’s actually a woman for once) becoming less losery, a coming-out story (her sister’s gay, which is obvious to everyone but her parents from the very first scene), a helping others story, a Christmas story, and a couple other stories I’ll keep hidden to avoid major spoilers. It tries to do so much and be so many things to so many people… and ends up falling on its face when it fails to be solid at any of the things! There was a major story element near the end that I never saw coming, but that’s not a good thing because there was never any sort of foreshadowing that it might happen.
The acting was nearly as sub-par as the convoluted story. Emilia Clark just skates through (pun intended) without hitting any real emotional or comedic marks. Emma Thompson felt more insulting than amusing. Michelle Yeoh came off more weird than comedic. Henry Golding was very charming but with so many plates spinning at once he was hardly ever seen.
There was a single sentiment of the movie where we find out a major story element (the depth of Kate’s sickness) that happened nearly two-thirds of the way into the movie – and no, I don’t know why they held it a secret for so long – that was actually touching and I’m sure rings true for many people in that same situation. But it was too little too late.
In short, everything about Last Christmas misses the mark. It tries to do too much and fails to do anything at all. It’s prettier and with better production values than any Hallmark holiday film, which is faint praise, but still somehow manages to fall short of the sentiments those flicks easily achieve with far less talent. Craving a quality cheesy Christmas rom-com this season? Skip Last Christmas and go watch Noelle on Disney+ instead.