Monday, December 2, 2019

Last Christmas

Last Christmas; romantic comedy, USA, 2019; D: Paul Feig, S: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson, Boris Isaković, Rebecca Root, Peter Mygind

London. Kate is a nonchalant girl of Serb origin who works as an Elf in a Christmas shop for her Chinese boss, nicknamed Santa. She does not care for anyone except herself, until she meets Tom, a nice, kind man who volunteers at a shelter for homeless people. When she loses a place to stay, yet once again, Kate grudgingly returns to her parents' place, Petra, a housewife, and Ivan, a lawyer who now works as a taxi driver. Due to her negligence, Kate forgot to lock the shop before leaving, and thus it was robbed. Kate admits to Tom that she had a heart transplant a year ago. Tom suddenly disappears. Finally, Kate realizes that she talked to a ghost, since Tom died in a car accident a year ago, and that his heart was donated to her to survive. Kate thus becomes a good person and helps people at the shelter.

"Last Christmas" is one of those peculiar movies that did not do anything extraordinarily wrong, yet did not do anything extraordinarily good, either. It is a touching, emotional little film with a positive message, and yet, it feels somehow strangely calculative, so much, in fact, that you never quite let go and let yourself "get lost" into its world. Emilia Clarke is an excellent actress, and it is so refreshing to see how she shows her charming and humorous side as Kate — yet the whole movie is two levels bellow her, without much inspiration or ingenuity, and with too much routine stuff the viewers have already seen before, and thus her performance, as a whole, is ultimately a little inhibited. It is obvious what the story was trying to show: Kate's transformation from a selfish, cynical person into an altruist with a heart, yet it does not come across as such, since Kate never seems like a bad person, but more like a clumsy, absent-minded girl who makes errors by accident. It is also unnecessary to have a subplot showing how Kate is of a Serb background, since this does not contribute to the story, which wouldn't have lost anything without it, except that it is amusing to hear Clarke speak in Serbo-Croatian in two scenes. Director Paul Feig let's the characters talk too fast, without a sense when to slow down for the viewers to "catch up" and simply enjoy and absorb the jokes on the screen, which would have given them more room to engage. The plot twist near the end has a fascinating premise, but in this edition it does not quite work, and should have been rewritten in a better way to make it work, without the fantasy elements. Clarke manages to elevate the film, nonetheless, including a nice little romantic moment when Tom says they need to talk, and she just jokingly comments: "Oh no, here comes the 'I have to tell you something'-moment". Besides Clarke, the second best performance was delivered by Emma Thompson as her conservative mother Petra, who chastizes her other daughter and her girlfriend, by calling their tiramisu a "lesbian pudding".


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