Big on heart despite its formulaic pitfalls
The holiday rom–com based on the George Michael song of the same name, “Last Christmas”, is causing a divide between movie critics and the public. Moviegoers seem to enjoy the movie, while movie critics for Rolling Stone and New York Post are less than impressed.
They do have some points.
Are some of the George Michael references less than suttle?
Do they make a point of touching on excessive cell phone use, Brexit, immigration, homelessness and same-sex marriage all in a mere hour 43 minutes?
Is it a little predictable?
You can answer all of these questions with yes, but despite these pitfalls, I stand with the general public in enjoying this movie.
All rom–coms are formulaic; it’s in their nature to be sappy, cheesy and predictable. It is one of the infuriating and enjoyable parts of the genre. It quite literally is a “tale as old as time,” yet we still watch.
Emilia Clarke trades in her confident, fierce persona as Daenerys in Game of Thrones, for struggling singer Kate who works at a year-round Christmas shop and avoids her overbearing mother. Clarke captures Kate’s self–centered, aimless attitude with ease.
Henry Golding charms in his role as the mysterious optimist Tom Webster. Golding’s cheerful, breezy portrayal of Webster is essential for the twist ending to land.
Plot (NO Spoilers)
The film opens in a church in Yugoslavia with a young Katarina/Kate singing the solo in their rendition of George Michael’s “Heal the Pain” to a joyfully tearful mother and an unimpressed sister.
The Katarina (who now goes as Kate) we meet next is less than impressive, now living in London after her family had to flee the Yugoslav war. She seems lost and disinterested in her well–being after recovering from a mysterious illness not yet revealed.
After using a man she met at a London bar for lodgings, she is unceremoniously kicked out mid-shower by the untimely return of the man’s girlfriend.
With nowhere else to go Kate heads to Yuletide, the year-round Christmas store where she works as an elf. She spends much of her working hours avoiding her mother’s phone calls and begging a friend for a place to stay for a few nights.
As if Kate wasn’t distracted enough, a man (Henry Golding) smiling while staring skyward outside the shop intrigues her enough to see what he seemed so pleased about. Unfortunately, it is a bird, which relieves itself in her eye.
Needless to say, Kate wasn’t eager to see the man or the bird again anytime soon. The man returns later to make sure she was alright and tries to convince her that it is actually good luck to be pooped on by a bird.
She turns down his invitation for a walk together, but keeps running into him and reluctantly agrees. This is a rom-com after all.
The man, named Tom Webster, and Kate become quite infatuated, but Kate becomes increasingly frustrated by his tendencies to disappear for days at a time. The fact that he also doesn’t carry a phone with him, makes him difficult to track down.
Tom helps her become a more giving person again and she admits to him that he is the only person that makes her feel whole, but there is an obstacle keeping them apart.