With every work, Paul Feig has expanded his portfolio that keeps departing from the traditional comedy, which makes the reputation out of him. Ever since Bridesmaid, Feig never sticks to certain formula; The Heat, Spy, and Ghostbusters have respectively distinct comedic elements. Recently, the director adapts Darcey Bell’s mystery, A Simple Favor, and still makes it an exhilarating one. With Last Christmas, the director ventures into a Curtisian British romcom—a distinctive sub-genre which almost exclusively related to British filmmakers.
Feig works on the script written by seasoned British actress, Emma Thompson (whose screenwriting credits including Oscar-nominated Sense & Sensibilities and Bridget Jones’ Baby), and Byrony Kimmings. Thompson and Kimmings conceive the story of Last Christmas from the DNA of Wham!’s song of the same title. The plot then gets expanded with magical Christmas elements adorned with other George Michael’s songs (which surprisingly fit the narrative’s needs) and spiced up with social commentary about post-Brexit life as well as self-care. There’s some sense of familiarity here and there; but, there’s also some sense of acknowledgment which makes this lightweight comedy works, especially under Feig’s direction.
The story revolves around a self-loathing immigrant daughter, Katarina (Emilia Clarke) who prefers to be called Kate—renouncing her Yugoslavian backstories behind. She’s working as an elf in an all-year-round Christmas shop owned by a woman who preferred to be called Santa (Michelle Yeoh). One day, she meets a stranger (Henry Golding), who will later bring her into a self-discovery voyage through the wintry night of London. Known as a sucker in commitment, Kate keeps rebuffing the stranger who insists on finding the inner joy with her; meanwhile, she struggles with her immigrant background and post-surgery trauma which makes her not herself.
The whole plot might sound too good to be true or too tongue-in-cheek at times; but. it’s sincere. Guided by similarly themed songs from George Michaels, Last Christmas finds the meaning of the story about self-healing and, most importantly, acceptance. Michael’s ‘Heal the Pain’ defines the whole theme as it becomes the first song to introduce as well; but, you cannot shy away from observing how ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ fits the scene. And yet, the truest gem is ‘Last Christmas’, whose literal lyrics hide a pivotal or else absurd moment of the plot.
Some elements of the plot might not add up, if not straightforward illogical. However, Last Christmas was never meant to be a grounded Christmas story. It takes the Yuletide magics into an oddball story, whose twist might be bothersome, but simply excusable. In the end, it’s the season to be jolly and a little touch of magic does not hurt. Under Feig, Clarke and Golding’s chemistry grows gradually but fruitfully. Golding’s character might be a little too active, making movements and quotes which sound artificial; but, as I said previously, they’re all there for some reason. Thompson, who also stars as Kate’s difficult mother, embraces the post-Brexit atmosphere effectively; while, Yeoh adds warmth to the story in a role that feels similar and yet different from the one she had in Crazy Rich Asians.
After all, the simple story manages to be sweet eventually. However, Last Christmas might mean more than that. Critics might not love it; but, the sincerity of this Christmas movie will last longer in the heart of Christmas-longing audiences than the criticisms.