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LAST CHRISTMAS gets 5.5/10 At least it’s not Mariah Carey


Directed by Paul Feig

Starring Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh

5.5/10

Kate (Emilia Clarke) has not made the best decisions in her life, a fact that she’s reminded of every day as she heads to work as an elf in a Christmas shop, and every night, as she calls around her friends list looking for a couch to surf. True, she’s had some bad luck, but besides her devotion to the works of the great George Michael, her taste in men has been terrible, and her bad behaviour is costing her friends and family. When she meets the quirky and overly cheerful Tom (Henry Golding), her life starts to take a turn for the better, just as the holiday season begins.

There’s a lot to be said for the charm of the main performances and the good hearted nature of Last Christmas making up for its shortcomings. This is certainly a feel-good piece rather than a strong example of film making, but it is quite an effective crowd pleaser, embracing its sentimentality and wearing it as a badge of pride. By the end of the film, you’ll have a smile on your face and a Wham tune stuck in your head, whether you want to or not.

Central to this is the elven (almost literally in this case, as she’s stuck in an elf costume for much of the film) Emilia Clarke. As the tumbling screw-up Kate, she proves she has some acting range, playing a character a million miles away from the aloof queenly persona she has cultivated in other roles. It allows her to provide some varied notes to her performance; to be a bit rough, a bit crass, a little selfish, to make mistakes, and to smile her way through it. Kate feels like more of a real person for Clarke, rather than a fantasy queen, or a sci-fi heroine, and it’s refreshing to see her embrace it- flaws and all.

There is also some good chemistry between herself and Golding, but the later is on less stable ground. Despite the actor’s talents, he’s given a role where he has to be “too good to be true”. Given Kate’s history of terrible choices, the audience is constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s a hard task to pull off, and consequentially Golding comes across as a little flat in the proceedings.

Threaded through this quaint story of romance and Christmas cheer, there’s a solid message about inclusiveness in a country (and a world) that is undergoing a lot of political divisiveness. The marginalised and the demonised are given voice here, be it the immigrant background of all the major characters, or the homeless that Tom works with (and Kate finds herself precariously close to), or the numerous other examples scattered throughout the film. It’s not a subtly delivered message, but subtlety is not what Last Christmas is about. The film’s dialogue may at times be cumbersome, its plot a little ridiculous and predictable, but it’s good natured, and wears its heart on its sleeve.

At the end of the day, it’s important to consider a film’s intent. Last Christmas sets out to be a light bit of sentimental entertainment, and it achieves it in a manner that is enjoyable and inoffensive. It might not exactly set the world on fire, but it’ll at least warm the cockles of your heart with a little of its Christmas magic.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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