As much as Last Christmas is selling itself on the notion that it’s “inspired” by the musical catalogue of the late, great George Michael – or more specifically the Wham! festive classic that this film’s title has lifted as its own – it’s ultimately not as formidable as it wishes to be.
That’s certainly not to say it doesn’t give its all, and it wears its tinsel-laced heart on its sleeve with an unashamed abandon, but despite the reliable direction of Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, A Simple Favour), charming performances from Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, and a co-writing credit from the always wonderful Emma Thompson, Last Christmas doesn’t quite reach the heights to be considered a festive favourite.
Proving there’s more to her repertoire than just serving as the Mother of Dragons, Clarke dials up the adorable as Kate, a sarcastic, somewhat lost soul of sorts who is quickly burning through her small circle of friends due to her seeming inability to function under their respective house rules. It’s an existence she’d rather frustratingly fumble through though as the alternative of coming home to her stern, disapproving mother (a heavily European-accented Thompson, serving as the film’s main source of comedic relief) is an option she’s insistent on voiding.
Just why Kate has lost her way comes down to a life-threatening illness she was diagnosed with the year prior, and perhaps in a bid to keep herself from suffering any more heartbreak than necessary, she’s built up a wall that allows her to alienate herself from anyone who dare get close. It’s a good thing then that she meets Tom (Golding), an alarmingly optimistic and undeniably charismatic gent who slowly but surely punctures through Kate’s exterior as if he’s on a mission to make her more gracious than grinch over the Christmas season.
As George Michael so melodically proclaimed that “you gotta have faith”, Last Christmas works off the notion that invested audiences will forgive the film for its overt sugary sweetness and simply surrender in the process. There’s nothing particular inventive about its narrative, and you’re likely to guess where the film is heading before it drops its emotional reveal, but if the trailers have warmed you to its mentality then Last Christmas‘s predictable nature is unlikely to bother; basically, if you’re a cynic in any form then this agreeable yet unremarkable laugher best not be on your wish list.
Whilst Thompson deserves credit for trying to layer the film with more than just seasonal-genre stereotypes – there’s a commentary on the Brexit situation that doesn’t land however – Last Christmas can’t escape its ultimate simplicities. Had anyone other than a proven writer like Thompson (who has netted an Academy Award for her screenplay skills) and comedically consistent director such as Feig been behind this there’s the likelihood it may not have been judged as harshly given their capabilities, but removing respective expectations, this is nonetheless a fine, amusing comedy that’s warm enough as holiday entertainment but is unlikely to keep you warm year after year.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Last Christmas is screening in Australian theatres now