My daughter Sophia and I have somewhat of an addiction to bad Hallmark movies. Luckily for us, there’s not one but two whole channels devoted to playing them year round. There are Halloween and fall-themes, generic romantic ones, and of course, Christmas love stories. Now, having said that, I will admit, probably about 97% of our viewing is so we can poke fun at it. I mean, they’re fun to set a mood, but the tropes are always the same. Straight woman can’t find love with straight man of same race, because she’s either a “career woman” that never had time for love, or has to to back to her home town to help take over a family business that’s failing, or about to be bought out by a big, mean, business man (who also happens to be single and her same race). Every now and then the main characters will already be in a relationship, but it’s all wrong, and the right person is just waiting for them back home…
So while I’m sure there are folks that take these movies very seriously, we are not those people. However that does not mean we aren’t hopeless romantics! One of my favorite movies is Love Actually, and I was thrilled when Sophia finally watched it a few years back and also fell in love. We also share a love for Moulin Rouge, so we aren’t scrooges I promise. Having been exposed to both really good and really bad romantic movies, we had high hopes for Last Christmas given the cast and story behind its creation. We were not disappointed.
The premise behind Last Christmas is taking George Michael’s famous Wham! song of the same name, and creating an entire movie around it. Sounds like a short movie, right? But really, that was just the impetus. The idea for this movie came about 10 years ago, and George Michael was approached and actually liked the idea, insisting on Emma Thompson’s involvement. They met several times and went over story ideas before his untimely death on Christmas day in 2016. It took a long time to get the story right, with Emma Thompson and Greg Wise writing treatments together. The development grew and evolved from there to what is sure to become an instant classic. Last Christmas has all the side character development and charm of Love Actually, where you actually care about the people on the screen and are glad you get to know a little more about them. It has all the important messaging of It’s a Wonderful Life (the inspiration for the director’s desire to make a classic Christmas movie) without being heavy handed or feeling like the audience is manipulated.
Kate used to feel special, but got sick and now that she’s better, her life is a shambles. She works in a Christmas shop and auditions as a singer/actress on the side. Suddenly Tom appears and things start to “look up.” He helps her realize that life is about more than just trying to make yourself happy, it’s about helping others be happy too. I won’t reveal more than that, but the story does have a twist, which Sophia and I both guessed, but it didn’t make it any less powerful.
The rest of the film is full of beautiful London scenes and quirky characters, along with some real world issues to confront as well. George Michael’s compelling music is woven throughout, acting like another character in the story, a literal chorus with a message to share. It’s truly a multi-level gift, the movie itself, the wonderful acting and story, and the music; reborn for a new audience to enjoy and appreciate. (And older audiences, as I instantly wanted to download the soundtrack on my way home, but settled for my George Michael playlist).
Last Christmas also normalized a lot of hot button issues (that frankly shouldn’t be hot button issues in 2019), like mixed race couples, same-sex couples, immigration, homelessness, and our preconceptions. It was great to see a movie come out and not attempt to capitalize or divide based on those issues, but rather just be a mirror to real life and the many people that live in it.
I cannot wait to see this movie again, and to be able to watch it every year as I do with Love Actually. Until then, I will remain inspired by the many messages of love, self-reflection, selflessness, helping others, and I’ll remember to Look Up.
Last Christmas opens everywhere Friday, November 8th – Go see it!
You can get the soundtrack on Friday too:
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Disclaimer: I was invited to a screening of Last Christmas at no cost, but as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.