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Last Christmas (2019)

Christmassy, with a hint of flatness, and a wall of fun…

Ok. So. Been a while. Sorry about that. Was forced into seven types of lockdown tier, a big one, back to a small one, got secreted in the back of a van by the offspring ’til they realised old Jack was going to teach the grandkids exciting swearwords from the 1700s (“fuckfist” plays badly over the Corn Flakes, in case you were wondering), then got dumped back at Corona Towers for the Nearly Dead in time for the latest batch of oldsters fresh from the overflow ward to screw up the aircon with COVIDDY breath.  Don’t know about you, but it’s been scary.

So…old Jack has dragged the telly from the masks-only TV room into Bedroom Moi. Nurse Stabby-Fingers has lost all her powers, what with the rubber gloves and face masks, so – ha! A bit of deftness with the cables and DVD player and here come the Christmassy delights of a nutty woman, big in the world of dragons apparently, all comedy crazy and fragile of lifestyle, auditioning for musicals and a stable relationship: Last Christmas.

Whisper it – old Jack really enjoyed this. Tied to the music of George Michael like it was ever that much fun or known to oldsters, the thing bounces along in a state of romcom chaos with jingle bells. Katarina (hereafter Kate) is a first generation immigrant from the land of Emma-Thompson’s-Possibly-European-Accents. She sings. Rather pleasingly, it turns out, with a vibrato-ish thing going on when she hits the long notes. Girl’s got talent, and channels I love Lucy with Sexy Times. Miserable, she shags easy pickups, gets turfed from flats and friends (delicate things get sat on; papery things get burnt), drinks as young folk do and rows with her family. Old Jack wanted to rescue her. And I don’t give a toss how olde world you think that is. I’m olde world. Beautiful girls should be rescued until they tell you off. 

The mum is Emma Thompson again, who wrote the film with a canny eye on formula, Christmas sprites, and trendy topics. Immigrants, booze, mental health and sexual orientation take early bows before kindness to the homeless dances for its pennies. The level of formula flattens the thing in places, but the performances tiptoe through an obviously real London freeze… They bring delight with them.

And we have Emilia Clarke as Kate. She’s a comedy mess, full of love-me grins and an easy-to-love nature that makes you hope earnestly for her out-of-the-blue friendship with Henry Golding as Tom. He pops onto the street beside her with skips, twirls and knowing glides on  his bike. “Look up,” he tells her, in between her humiliating auditions and family revelations (that’s the sexual orientation thing: it sort of flops out between retreads of the Russian entries in Eurovision. You’d be pissed if your sister did that, right?). Look up…

Ok, none of this is subtle, but much of it is about the scrabble out of sadness into hope and wonder. And that’s good. Old Jack refers you back to 2020: a year of entrapment, sadness and a dash of fear. Much like Kate’s life. We don’t need subtle this Christmas.

And then there’s Michelle Yeoh, who pops up as Kate’s middle-aged employer. Easily disappointed, enshrined in her cave of Christmas memorabilia, she plays things so cool old Jack wept tears of yearning when she falls in love. And Clarke’s Kate cheers along her middle-yeared friend, as the young should.

So…Kate and Tom nearly get to know each other, the latter disappearing at telling moments, and flitting back into focus after she’s ballsed up the next thing. The low point is letting burglars into the Christmas shop, which tells you something about the CCTV in Covent Garden. Our heroes retire to his flat in a meaningful evening of get-to-know-you-ness, sans active shagging, when the despair gets too much…

And then there are flashbacks…

And a mystery…

And a bittersweet retread of what really happened that Scrooge never had to put up with…sort of. Ah – Christmas movies, eh?

Look, Last Christmas is designed for Christmas afternoon. And, given we’ve lived through an unending Boxing Day this year, stick with the main event. Get yourself loaded on mince pies, chocolates, mulled wine, the Queen if you live close, and bang this on the box. Clarke is lightness and charm personified; Golding is an easy match and skippier on his feet. That space between knowingness and a story demanding innocence and surprise is filled with good cheer, tinsel swirling off a ton of ideas, and a formula that’ll help your wrecked brain through to a sweet ’n’ sour ending. 

Properly recommended. 

If you still have oldsters in your family, why not try a communal Zoom?

Old Jack is off to Covent Garden. Ms Yeoh may still be hanging about in a Santa outfit and disapproving glower.

Oh, be nice. All my lovers are dead.

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