“LAST CHRISTMAS”: Drowning by eggnog

Published November 7, 2019 by Robert W. Butler at Butler’s Cinema Scene

My rating: C- (Opens wide on Nov. 8) | 102 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Despite my general hatred of seasonally-themed romantic comedies (like chugging a gallon of eggnog), there were reasons to think “Last Christmas” might be different.

For starters, it was written by Emma Thompson (who in addition to being a great actress gave us the screenplays for “Sense and Sensibility,” “Nanny McPhee” and “Bridget Jones’ Baby”) and directed by Paul Feig of “Bridesmaids” fame.

Surely those two could provide just enough edge to make all that good cheer palatable.

If only.

“Last Christmas,” which purportedly was inspired by the George Michael song of the same name, is an unbearable mess, too dour to be truly funny and too silly to work dramatically.

Most of the film is a too-quirky dramady that botches just about everything it attempts; in its final stages the script delivers a plot twist that has been so poorly set up that it hardly makes a dent in the audience ennui.

Kate (Emilia Clark) is a mess.  Though she considers herself an aspiring singer, she works in a year-round Christmas store in London where she is required to suit up as an elf — even in the summer.  Her off hours are devoted to boozing and sleeping with cute strangers.  At odds with her parents, she lives out of a suitcase, crashing on the couches of friends whose patience is wearing thin.

We’re supposed to find her charming in an offbeat way; mostly she’s just irritating.

Henry Golding, Emilia Clarke

Then she meets Tom (“Crazy Rich Asians’” Henry Golding),  a handsome young guy who appears out of nowhere on a bicycle and advises the moody Kate to always “look up.”  Tom doesn’t so much walk as dance; he moves like like a chimney sweep from “Mary Poppins.” He has a disconcerting way of disappearing for days, then showing up unannounced to  minister to Kate’s bruised and battered ego.

And get this…he won’t sleep with her.  He’s that decent a guy.

Most importantly, Tom introduces Kate to the homeless shelter where he volunteers, and little by little she begins worrying less about herself and discovers altruism.  Think of her as Scrooge and Tom as one of the Christmas spirits.

This relationship plays out against a couple of subplots stunning in their banality.

Michelle Yeoh plays Kate’s boss; she’s Chinese but calls herself Santa. She has a thinly-developed romance with a handsome middle-aged fellow who apparently has a sauerkraut fetish. (You can’t make this up.)

Kate’s mom, played by Emma Thompson, is a Yugoslav immigrant adept at Old World kvetching. She drives her daughter crazy; in the recent past Kate has had major surgery, and Mama is trying to make her live a life of moderation.  The fact that Kate’s family came from a war-torn part of the world gives the screenplay a chance to comment on anti-immigrant prejudices.

I’ve long been dubious of Clarke’s acting chops; at least she looks cute in her elf outfit. Golding exudes bland integrity, and that’s about it.

There may not be one genuine moment in the entirety of “Last Christmas.” Nevertheless the advertising for this turkey promotes it as a new Yuletide classic.

Yeah, and I’m the next Brad Pitt.

| Robert W. Butler

Read the original review and more reviews at Butler’s Cinema Scene

Posted in ,

Leave a Comment

Robert W. Butler for 41 years reviewed films for the Kansas City Star. In May 2011 he was downsized.

He couldn’t take the hint.

OKAY, so here’s the deal. I write mostly about movies. One good thing about no longer writing for the paper is that I’m free to ignore the big dumb Hollywood turkeys that don’t interest me. So don’t expect every blessed release to be written about here. Many films aren’t worth the effort. Besides, at my age it’s not the $8. It’s the two hours.

UPDATE: OCTOBER, 2014: Well, here’s an interesting twist. The Star wants me back as a freelance film reviewer!!! Apparently enough time has passed that they cannot be accused of firing me so that they can rehire me at a fraction of my original pay (I gather the federal government frowns upon that practice.) So from now on I will probably be reviewing a movie a week for the newspaper.