LAST CHRISTMAS, YOU GAVE ME YOUR ... ROM-COM
Let’s face it: As far as holiday music goes, George Michael’s “Last Christmas” is not exactly a classic. Yet even with its shiny pop feel and broken-hearted lyrics, it kind of sticks with you and is easy to like.
That’s also my feeling about the new Christmas movie named for the 1984 hit that Michael wrote and recorded with Wham!
In fact, fans of Michael -- who died quite young on Christmas Day in 2016 -- will want to catch “Last Christmas,” because it’s set almost entirely to his music. But fans of Emma Thompson and Emilia Clarke should be interested as well.
Likewise folks who enjoy a good teary-eyed rom-com.
Thompson, the only person ever to win an Oscar for both acting and writing, co-wrote the script for “Last Christmas” and is also very funny in a supporting role.
Clarke, best known for her work as Daenerys in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” plays Kate, a young lady working in a year-round Christmas shop and struggling to find her place in life. This is due partly to a toxic home atmosphere from which she has fled, but there’s more going on, and all I’m gonna say is that some of it is tied to the title song’s lyrics.
Kate has a meet-cute with the handsome and selfless Tom Webster (Henry Golding), who perseveres with her even though she’s a sort of one-woman wrecking crew with a tendency to self-absorption and self-destruction. Thompson, sporting an effective Eastern European accent, co-stars as Kate’s gloomy, overprotective mother, while Michelle Yeoh plays the shop-owner -- who is also winningly committed to helping Kate.
But this film belongs to Clarke, and to Golding -- the charismatic up-and-coming star of “Crazy Rich Asians” and next year’s hot-looking “The Gentlemen.” They have plenty of chemistry, and if he at times seems too good to be true, it’s certainly pleasant at holiday time to see someone so devoted to helping others -- and not so eager to jump into bed on the first, second or even third date.
Thompson’s script is often laugh-out-loud funny; the closing line about pudding kept me chuckling a good long time, and there are other zingers, including Kate’s remark to Yeoh: “You like your men tall, thin and translucent -- like a squid, with less legs.”
The story, incidentally, was co-written by Thompson’s husband, Greg Wise, who starred with her as the despicable Willoughby in “Sense and Sensibility” (Thompson’s script for that film snagged one of her Oscars). Frankly, it’s a little too easy to see where the story is going, and then on top of that it overplays its hand. On the whole, however, the final resolution is satisfying, if not quite as happily-ever-after as one expects in a Christmas rom-com.
Michael’s music makes a surprisingly suitable soundtrack, and fans should sit through the closing credits, which feature a recently found new song of his that now gets unwrapped in this entertaining holiday package.
directed by Paul Feig
Run time: 102 min.
* * * (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for language and some sexual content