- By RICH ANDREW
- Photos Courtesy of UNIVERSAL
Christmas comes early this year in the form of an adorable new comedy by director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) that is sure to put you in the holiday spirit. Hatched from the brilliant minds of Emma Thompson (Late Night) and her husband Greg Wise (The Crown), then penned by writer Bryony Kimmings and Thompson herself, Last Christmas delivers both an ode to the late, great George Michael as well as an instant Christmas classic.
Undoubtedly the film’s inspiration hails from the pop legend’s cherished Christmas carol of the same name. Up until his untimely death, George Michael had been collaborating with Emma Thompson on Last Christmas, even recording new music! — a priceless and posthumous gift in itself, boosted only by Dame Emma adding her Oscar-winning excellence as writer and actress to seal the silver screen in the ultimate movie magic. Showing off her comedy chops, Thompson frolics inside the eccentricities of a devoted but domineering mother whose every worry centers around the woes of her very cynical and very single daughter Kate. And if any actor knows how best to portray cold and alone, it is First of Her Name, Mother of Dragons, the spirited Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) about to tackle her iciest role yet.
As always, every treasured Christmas story sprouts from its bah-humbug beginnings, and Kate’s prickly personality draws its breath from the lump of coal left in her heart after she survived a devastating sickness in which she nearly died almost a year ago. Now, struggling to get a grip on her life, Kate finds herself slaving away as an elf in a Christmas shoppe called Yuletide Wonderful, where her less-than-wonderful ways irritate her boss, played by the marvelous Michelle Yeoh (Star Trek: Discovery). And with the dragon fire and Targaryen braids no longer bogging her down, Emilia Clarke emerges as an absolute revelation in her portrayal of the complicated yet oddly charismatic Kate, making her version of messy amusing, finding humor in her melancholy, and pairing her acerbic tongue with a smile so contagious that it makes every one of her flaws just one more reason to fall in love with her.
When the boss lady points out that Kate has lost more than just her holiday spirit, Kate is hit with the soul-crushing slap in the cherubic face that she has lost herself entirely, her lifelong dream of becoming a singer now just a forgotten ghost of her Christmas past. But as fate would have it, a bit of yuletide magic nudges Kate towards her Christmas present as she becomes curiously drawn to a perfect stranger named Tom, who is dashing, handsome, whimsical, and every bit the Christmas miracle. Donning the dreamy eyes of this good Samaritan is Hollywood’s newest heartthrob Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians). And Golding proves he’s more than just a pretty face with his nuanced performance that grounds Tom’s serendipity with comforting certainty, joining his jolly wit with an unbreakable resolve that we are oh so eager to watch melt the ice around Kate’s damaged heart.
Under boughs of holly, bathed in snowflakes of sliver and gold, Tom whisks this ornery elf off the shelf into a world of enchanting possibility. And the more he reminds her of how precious life can be, the more Kate fights to seize a second chance at her Christmas future, recapture her courage, and sing her heart out. Lit by a myriad of glittering bulbs strung from Piccadilly Circus to the Strand and scored to many of George Michael’s greatest hits, the streets of London finally come alive with the spirit of Last Christmas and turn this budding romance into a fairy tale for the ages. With delightful performances by a supporting cast that features Patti LuPone (Pose), Margaret Clunie (Victoria), Rebecca Root (Doctors), and Lydia Leonard (Gentleman Jack), winter may have come and gone, but this November, a winter wonderland is coming.
“Last Christmas” hit theaters on November 8th.