‘Last Christmas’: A Scroogey Review
By Bryan Durham - November 11, 2019
Rucha Sharma made for quite a convincing advocate of Last Christmas last week. The reviewer didn’t mince words as she called the film “a rosy corner in a thorny world”.
And that’s just the problem with Last Christmas. We like to believe we live in a world filled with Freds and Tiny Tims, but know it in our hearts that we’re miserable Scrooges and Marleys to our core. It usually takes a life-changing event to reset to the former kind, a realisation that essentially rejigs our path to hubris. And in that, Last Christmas isn’t unlike Christmas Carol.
At the outset, Emilia Clarke as the perennially gloomy/snarky Katarina (you’d best call her Kate, though) is no Scrooge, but emotionally, is trying too hard to be one. Keenly adamant that she would rather live at the mercy of friends/strangers/one-night-stands than embrace the familiarity of a deeply dysfunctional family, she eventually sees the convenience in the latter.
The film DOES start out promisingly with a young Katarina singing the lead in a Yugoslavian choir. She belts out Heal The Pain by George Michael so well, I almost agreed with Rucha (when she writes that the makers “finding the right spots… prevents the movie from being a fanservice job”) right then and there.
But then she grows up, down on her luck as the sometimes likeable, but mostly cloyingly Kate, who can neither hold down a job, an audition, a friend’s offer of accommodation (Wake Me Up, anyone?) or as it turns out, a romantic partner. And it isn’t for lack of trying. She’s a train-wreck as a grown-up.
But enough of ‘Love me, love George Michael’-spouting Kate. All she offers as a fan is lip service. Let’s turn our attention to Henry Golding’s Tom for a while. Not a Filthy Rich Asian here, he’s a charming delivery boy who is persistent in his affections for our leading lady, despite her insistence on calling him a weirdo.
He begins, not unlike Dickens’ Ghosts Of Christmas do to Scrooge, to get Kate to reassess her life and set out to ‘rediscover her heart’ (pun totally intended). But he is quite inconsistent in his appearances leading Kate to question her choices in men and get giving things One More Try.
In between Praying For Time, Freedom ’90 and a redo of Heal The Pain, she grows up and grows out of her insecurities, that much is a given. But each of those instances are so muted in the background, it feels more like a force-fit than an actual tribute/homage.
By the time you see it coming (a mile away for the most Wham! woke among us), you know where this romantic comedy is headed.
And by this time, you don’t really care, because hey, I wasn’t here to watch a Bollywood movie and quite simply, realisations shouldn’t make a 1 hour 45 minute film feel like a two-and-a-half-hour sloth.
The dialogues are cutesy, but quite out of touch with reality. Escapism is a dish best served piping hot, not lukewarm. And that’s a fact that seems to have been lost on the scriptwriters.
By the time, the conclusion rolls around and you hear Last Christmas play one more time, you’ve kinda lost Faith in what this film set out to do.>