*Warning: this article contains mild spoilers*
Last weekend, my friend and I went to see a holiday flick that we had eagerly been awaiting since August. Between an incredibly talented cast, George Michael’s entire discography and a screenplay written by Emma Thompson, what could possibly disappoint?
To be clear, I was not expecting this movie to win an Oscar. I was expecting this movie to not try to be an Oscar contender. A safe bet that I still lost.
In hindsight, the seemingly perfect cast was not all that I was led to believe. While I loved Emilia Clarke as the Mother of Dragons, the sudden transition to romantic comedy lead is a bit of a jump. At least this time her character, Kate, is intentionally a complete disaster.
Michelle Yeoh does the best with the character she’s given, and Emma Thompson, who plays Kate’s mother in addition to co-writing the screenplay, wrote herself as the zany matriarch, a trope as old as time.
The only casting choice that really makes sense for this movie is Henry Golding, who was great in 2018’s reigning rom-com “Crazy Rich Asians,” although it is indisputable that movie was carried by its female cast. In “Last Christmas,” it’s unclear if the former travel network host lacks the acting chops for a role where he’s required to be more than just hot, or if he’s actually playing his character, a bicycling-enthusiast manic-pixie-dream-boy with little substance or personality, appropriately.
The films greatest flaw is that it tries to be too many things at once. It tries to be a romantic comedy and a serious drama. It tries to be light and cheery and have subplots that attempt to make political statements. It tries to sell you a story about romantic love and deliver a story about self-love. But in the end, it accomplishes none of these things.
In trying to transcend the genre, “Last Christmas” comes off as a self-important, Oscar-hopeful wannabe. Here’s a newsflash for everyone that signed off on this project: there’s nothing wrong with the genre. Sometimes a gal gets overwhelmed by the stress of the holiday season and just wants to watch a movie that delivers happy vibes and zero surprises. Sometimes you just want to know they get together at the end. Sometimes you don’t want to get hit by a plot twist in the last fifteen minutes of a movie that will have you leaving the theater genuinely unnerved.
Decades of cheesy seasonal flicks, from Hallmark staples to “A Christmas Prince,” have proven that you can slap a bow and a Christmas song montage on a hot holiday mess and call it a rom-com. But “Last Christmas” fails in the primary purpose of romantic comedies: to be enjoyable. The film is cringe-worthy from beginning to end, uncomfortable at the best of times and depressing at the worst. Heavy topics are woven in and out of a silly plot without subtlety or grace. And by the end credits, the movie has failed in the two basic universal tenets of the genre: to give the viewer love interests they can root for and to end the movie with the characters pleasantly and predictably coupled.