“Last Christmas” seems like it was released an eternity ago.
It really wasn’t, but it was extremely forgettable.
Using songs from George Michael’s catalog, the romantic comedy presses a little too hard on the heartstrings and tries to combine “Fault in Our Stars” with “Yesterday.”
The premise? A Christmas store worker (Emilia Clarke) has difficulty following through with everything. She botches relationships, can’t follow simple directions and doesn’t know where she’s sleeping from night to night.
In short, she’s a mess. And then she meets a hunky stranger (Henry Golding) who gives her reason to straighten up and live right. There’s the hint of a relationship but just when she gets too close, he pulls away. What’s the reason?
Director Paul Feig tosses out potential answers as the smitten Kate finds ways to deal with her problems. Golding’s Tom is almost too good to be true. He helps the homeless, operates without a phone, and prompts others to “look up” just when life seems too unbearable.
Kate has strained relationships with her mother (Emma Thompson, who also wrote the screenplay), her sister (Lydia Leonard) and her boss (Michelle Yeoh). They don’t like her inability to focus and wonder what might signal a turning point.
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Unlike the Hallmark films this seems to resemble, “Last Christmas” spends too much time making Golding seem mysterious. Instead of letting those “meet cute” moments resonate, Feig allows them to slip by while Kate fails at an ice skating audition, alienates her sister and botches bonding moments with mom.
Even her work ethic needs change. Feig tosses in those Michael songs with abandon (wait for “Faith”) and lets Thompson do more mugging than a writer really should.
Golding and Clarke are attractive but both of them have been down this road before and gotten better results.
Here, “Last Christmas” seems to go on forever, despite its holiday transformation vibe. Clarke is great at these roles (she should really follow Audrey Hepburn’s career path) but this one presses the quirky button too often, even for Golding’s good.
When the secret is revealed, you’ll feel cheated – not because it’s lame but because you should have seen it coming the minute Golding showed up.
Hearing Michael’s voice is probably the film’s greatest reason for being. An Elton John-like biopic (with Adam Lambert in the leading role) comes to mind several times throughout “Last Christmas,” but it doesn’t cover the familiar scent of “Last Christmas.”