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Last Christmas

Tamara and I had a great time the night before Christmas Eve catching up with 2019’s LAST CHRISTMAS. Funny, adult and loaded with laughs, it comes from Paul Feig, the director of “Bridesmaids”, “Spy” and “The Heat”.

Kate (Emilia Clarke, our favorite Dragon Queen from GOT) is pitch perfect as Kate, a young woman in a dead end job as an elf at a London Christmas store. The shop is run by Santa in the form of Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies) as a stern shop owner whose loaded every square inch of her store with unique (and sometimes hilarious) Christmas items.

Kate’s sleeping on a series of friend’s couches and her greatest talent seems to be alienating those friends kind enough to let her crash. The men in her life are interchangeable and rarely last more than a night.

All that changes when Kate meets Tom by chance in the streets of London. Tom (Henry Golding of “Crazy Rich Asians”) gently persists in getting to know Kate, even though she’s rude, abrupt, self-centered and dedicated to bad life decisions. The film teeters on letting her make a few too many of those choices, nearly rendering the character unlikeable, but Clarke keeps us engaged.

Kate’s immigrant mother Petra (Emma Thompson sporting a heavy accent and plenty of hilarious attitude) trusts no one, berating Kate’s Dad into submission while wishing that Kate was more like her successful at work sister Marta (Lydia Leonard).

Tom is a kind soul and begins to grow on Kate, who starts to truly see the world around her.

It’s a fun, enjoyable journey, loaded with holiday spirit and a lot of eccentric characters at the homeless shelter near the Christmas Shop. It’s to the film’s credit that all the people there aren’t treated as stock characters. By the time they are auditioning for a Christmas pageant, you know enough about them for those auditions to be the best since the ‘Springtime for Hitler” auditions in “The Producers”.

Emma Thompson also wrote the film with her husband Greg Wise, basing it on the music of George Michael. One of the most underrated songwriters of recent decades, casual fans will be surprised to find the depth of songs and lyrics that play perfectly into the film’s story. I have to think that Thompson’s experience as one of the stars of “Love Actually” inspired her for this Christmas tale.

There are surprises in store as Kate’s story unfolds, some surprisingly dark for a Christmas tale, but the surprise ending works perfectly, providing Kate an opportunity for redemption of the Scrooge/Christmas Carol variety. Both Ebenezer and Kate could use some improving & awareness as their stories begin.

The score is great, the London settings are beautiful, Clarke, Golding, Yeoh and Thompson are memorable and it’s surprising the beating this took at the box office in the USA and with many critics. World-wide it was a hit, with $121 million in box office against its $25m budget.

In our house, it joins “Love Actually” as a new holiday favorite that we’ll enjoy every year.

LAST CHRISTMAS gets a B+. And remember, “Look Up”!

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