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Movie review: ‘Last Christmas’ is worth giving your heart away to this holiday season

(Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

"Last Christmas"

Directed by Paul Feig

Universal Pictures

Nov. 8

By Paige Hua

November 7, 2019 10:49 pm

Henry Golding gave away his heart before he could catch Emilia Clarke under the mistletoe.

But before the tears start rolling, Golding takes the hearts of both Clarke and audiences first. Golding co-stars as Tom alongside Clarke, who plays Kate, in “Last Christmas,” which hits theaters Friday. The film, directed by Paul Feig, is also written by and stars Emma Thompson, who brings her own familiar sense of wit and humor to the production. And while it’s no Oscar contender, the production is as heartwarming as hot chocolate, despite its occasional plot holes.

[RELATED: Cultural authenticity in ‘Always Be My Maybe’ spices up rom-com genre]

As the film begins, viewers are introduced to Kate as she lingers in a bar, standing next to a jukebox playing George Michael on repeat. She proceeds to pursue a one-night stand, only to be promptly kicked out of her fling’s apartment by his girlfriend. That scene alone sets the tone for Kate’s quirky, pessimistic mess of a character for the first half of the film. And as she stumbles her way through life, arguing with everyone in her family, Kate is the underdog that everyone just can’t help but root for.

Dressed in a cheetah-print fur coat and dragging along her silver suitcase, also decorated in George Michael stickers, Kate makes her way to an over-the-top Christmas store. Ran by Santa (Michelle Yeoh), the shop is an explosion of holiday cheer, with Kate perfectly joining the festivities as a jingling elf. Through the shop window, she meets her love interest, Tom, who is staring up at the rafters of their building. With curiosity getting the best of her, Kate walks outside to look up at Tom’s object of interest only to be pooped on by a bird.

From that moment on, “Last Christmas” takes viewers on a roller coaster of an emotional journey during which many spontaneous elements go unanswered. Even Santa’s own love interest crashes into her life out of nowhere. The man (Peter Mygind), who Santa teasingly nicknames “Boy,” barges into the shop right as it’s about to close and the two share an off-kilter conversation, staring intensely into each other’s eyes. While the moment is obviously meant to be humorous, one can’t help but feel that it’s too cliche – the two fell instantly in love without building their relationship on anything substantial.

And the relationship between Santa and the Boy remains just as odd for the rest of the film too, with Boy gifting her fermented cabbages stacked in the shape of a Christmas tree and spontaneously gaining the ability to speak Chinese.

[RELATED: Heartfelt comedy manages to shine through in ‘Jojo Rabbit’ despite dark themes]

But strange relationships aren’t all that go unexplained. The film also touches on political issues like Brexit and immigration without fully fleshing them out as actual components of the story line. Instead, they’re dropped into the film as contextual details during bus rides and television clips. Rather than adding a sense of timeliness to the production, it leaves behind an atmosphere of confusion.

However, while certain elements undermine the movie’s suspension of disbelief, the holiday rom-com is saved by its twist.

Wonderfully crafted and completely unsuspected, the film’s final twist clarifies everything from the film’s title to the little references to George Michael. Similar to how Clarke’s last romance panned out in “Me Before You,” the last 20 minutes of “Last Christmas” will be spent in a blur of tears and piles of tissues. After all, no viewer can be immune to Golding’s best line, asking Kate to care for his heart because it’s going to be her’s one way or another.

Ending on Kate’s uplifting performance of “Last Christmas,” the film leaves audiences smiling through tears, previous faux pas forgotten in the festive cheer. As the credits roll, what really lingers is the warmth of the story and Thompson’s cheeky little joke about “lesbian pudding.”

So while the film could’ve provided more depth to some of its characters and story lines, “Last Christmas” does its job in melting our hearts as winter approaches.

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Paige Hua | Arts editor
Hua is the Theater | Film | Television editor at the Daily Bruin. She was previously an A&E contributor.
Hua is the Theater | Film | Television editor at the Daily Bruin. She was previously an A&E contributor.
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