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Review: Last Christmas

Last Christmas is being sold as a rom-com with holiday spirit. The film is far more holiday spirit than a romantic comedy. This is important to note as I do feel many will go in expecting something more about love than yuletide cheer and goodwill.

The film revolves around a plot twist that any observant viewer will pick up on well before the reveal so do not worry about spoilers here. The story takes place in late December and follows Kate (Emilia Clarke) who works at a year-round Christmas shop. Kate was a singer but then got sick and received a complete heart transplant. Her romantic opposite is played by Henry Golding. Now he does odd things like dancing around passerby on the sidewalk, only turning up when she appears alone and never interacting with other characters. He constantly vanishes and then reappears without warning. What could be going on?

As silly and obvious as the film's premise is, Last Christmas still possesses a good deal of charm. This is largely thanks to Clarke. If you have only seen her on Game of Thrones then be prepared to be wowed at how likable she can be. The film has a sort of scene-to-scene pleasure to it. It may not amount to a satisfying whole but you will no doubt be into it from moment to moment. The big plot mistake it makes is forgivable when the film is so earnest in its desire to be warm and sweet.

Kate is a typical rom-com female, a mess and total screwup at the beginning of the film that slowly begins to win you over as you get to know her. Clarke and Golding don't have great chemistry together but you will with Clarke. She is best when charming the audience rather than her co-star. Michelle Yeoh plays the shop owner with grace and humanity. The part is not written with much depth but Yeoh brings a lot to the table. Her romance with a patron of the store is one of the better things about Last Christmas. Emma Thompson, who co-wrote the film, plays Kate's overbearing mother. Thompson commits to a big performance here that only works occasionally.

Paul Feig directs the film with a swift pace and good comic timing. However, the film is missing his acidic brand of female-centric humor that is so winning in Bridesmaids, Spy and last years A Simple Favor. The film could have used a little dose of snark to balance all the sweetness. There is an odd bit of Brexit business and casual racism thrown in but it goes nowhere and doesn't serve the same role that a bit of acid would have.

Last Christmas is a comfort-food cinema, akin to a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie. It may not be all that original or even good for you but it goes down easily. Fanatics of Christmas films, especially Hallmark fare, will no doubt find plenty to enjoy about this. Just look past that twist.



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