The musical stylings of George Michael collide with Brexit — and the movie is a romcom? Such is the peculiar recipe of “Last Christmas,” a comedy that gets the jump on a marathon holiday season.
The title comes from a ludicrously beloved Wham! song originally released in 1984. Our story is very much present-day, however, as we peek in on the hapless life of Kate (Emilia Clarke), a young woman floundering through life in London.
Her current disarray makes Bridget Jones seem a model of discipline. Couch-surfing at homes of exasperated friends (and occasional strangers), Kate just barely holds on to her job as an elf at a year-round Christmas store.
Yes, an elf. This film is not afraid of cuteness. Not least in the way Emilia Clarke’s perky performance seems designed to create distance from the heaviness of “Games of Thrones.”
Kate meets a clean-cut guy named Tom (Henry Golding), who firmly but gently steers her in the direction of better living. The movie never seems to notice that he’s kind of annoying, with all his condescending advice, but we’re supposed to see Kate as a mess in need of guidance.
There is a kind of romance, but is it love, actually? Tom vanishes with some regularity, as though Kate needs to do her repair work on her own.
Scenes at the Santa shop are amusing, thanks to the great Michelle Yeoh, who plays Kate’s snarky boss. And we get a taste of Kate’s home life, where she sometimes lands when she can’t find another place to sleep.
The fact of her family having immigrated to the U.K. from the former Yugoslavia plays into the film’s references to Brexit, and the “go back where you came from” sentiments that have become so popular in our world of late. This gives the movie a little much-needed grit.
Emma Thompson (who also co-wrote the screenplay) plays Kate’s gloomy mother, and she gets her share of good one-liners. Most of the film’s gags are sweeter in flavor.
“Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig seems content to let the movie coast along on Clarke’s impish charm, plus a steady stream of George Michael songs. Given that Feig’s previous films had some explosive comic energy, this isn’t exactly a step forward.
Golding came out of “Crazy Rich Asians” as a hot new property, so it’s disappointing to see him stuck in a neutered role, even if he does have one good speech suggesting that maybe people would be better off if we stopped considering ourselves so special.
“Last Christmas” has a couple of surprises, which we won’t get into here. They aren’t enough to make the film more than a well-formed time-killer. But if you seek earworms, look no further: Sit through this movie and have your head colonized by George Michael for the foreseeable future.
Paul Feig’s last name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.
“Last Christmas” (2 stars)
Emilia Clarke plays a Londoner whose messy life is straightened out when a clean-cut stranger (Henry Golding) doles out life advice. Most of this romcom plays out with plenty of cuteness, which isn’t quite enough to make it more than a time-killer.
Rating: PG-13, for language, subject matter
Opening Friday: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds Theater, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor Plaza