It’s difficult to write this Last Christmas review because I saw the movie less than 12 hours ago and I’ve already largely forgotten it. Perhaps that’s the intent of this kind of disposable holiday fare—to make for a nice date night during the Christmas season and nothing more—and yet one would expect the film to leave a greater impact given the talent involved. It’s got Paul Feig (Bridesmaids and A Simple Favor) directing a script co-written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Emma Thompson. It’s got great actors in the lead roles. There’s nothing particularly offensive about Last Christmas, but it’s far less than the sum of its parts. It’s a nice movie, but one that fails to stick around the second the credits start to roll.
Kate (Emilia Clarke), a die-hard fan of George Michael’s music, is a human trainwreck in London working in a year-round Christmas store for “Santa” (Michelle Yeoh), the shop’s demanding but good-hearted owner. Kate’s life has kind of gone off the rails since she got sick a couple years ago, and now she spends her days alienating her family and friends while pursuing her dream of becoming a singer. While working at the shop one day, Tom (Henry Golding) comes into her life and his saintly demeanor and effervescent charm not only start to win Kate over, but inspire her to take stock of her life and work to be a better person.
Last Christmas is the worst kind of movie to review because it’s not particularly good and it’s not particularly bad. It just kind of exists. There are some good one-liners, Clarke and Golding show again why they’re part of the next generation of movie stars with their effortless charm and comic timing, and Feig directs all of it with a nice holiday sheen that gets you in the mood for the holiday season. There’s nothing wrong Last Christmas that you can point to and say, “Aha! That’s why the movie doesn’t work!” or “This aspect really makes it stand out and shine!”
There’s nothing broken about the movie, but everything it does reminds you of how it was better utilized in another film or TV show. Fleabag casts a heavy shadow over Last Christmas because not only is Kate a young woman living in London whose life is a mess, she also has an overachieving sister whom she loves but their relationship is strained. It’s nice to weave in the music of George Michael throughout, but it almost feels like his song “Last Christmas” was the starting point and then the rest of his music was largely dumped in because who doesn’t like George Michael? And then there’s a plot development you can probably see a mile away if you’ve watched the trailer. I won’t say much about it other than it doesn’t really add anything other than making Last Christmas feel like an odd assortment of other stories without one of its own.
Holiday movies are admittedly tough. You have to work within a particular framework and usually have to be comforting in some sense. Comfort and familiarity go hand-in-hand, and Last Christmas is nothing is not familiar. That doesn’t make it a “bad” movie. It’s the kind of movie that will pop up on a streaming service in a year or so and people will give it a shot because Clarke and Golding will likely be even bigger stars than they are now, and folks will watch and be like, “That was nice.” The problem is there are a lot of other nice Christmas movies out there as well and they’re likely to find a place in your heart rather than just passing time.