Cynical Christmas store worker falls in love with overly-cheerful man in 'Last Christmas'
NEW YORK (CNS) -- The holiday-themed blend of romantic comedy and drama "Last Christmas" (Universal) is both awkward in execution and problematic in content. So viewers committed to scriptural values should approach it with caution.
The film tells the conversion story of Kate (Emilia Clarke), a childhood refugee from ex-Yugoslavia living in London whose selfish, thoughtless ways are transformed after she meets and falls for a mysterious, sensitive stranger named Tom (Henry Golding).
Tom is sympathetic with Kate's woes, which she connects to a traumatic illness she recently suffered that required her to undergo a heart transplant. He also sets her a good example by his volunteer work at a homeless shelter.
Kate's eventual reform benefits the stern but good-hearted owner (Michelle Yeoh) of the yuletide merchandise store where she works who goes by the nickname Santa. It also comes as a relief to her war-scarred mother, Petra (Emma Thompson), and put-upon dad, Ivan (Boris Isakovic), as well as her successful attorney sister, Marta (Lydia Leonard).
As written by Thompson and Bryony Kimmings and directed by Paul Feig, "Last Christmas" is aesthetically flawed and a moral grab bag. Kate's original personality is so grating that it's difficult to take much of a shine to her while the twist ending is a whopper only the most sentimental will willingly swallow.
Ethically, positive messages about welcoming foreigners, caring for the poor and the power of love to ennoble people are offset by a frivolous attitude toward emotionless encounters and homosexual relationships. It is held out as a sign of progress that Tom forestalls any premature intimacy. But Kate has been shown to have a habit of bedding strangers and the chastity of her relationship with Tom is none of her doing.
The gay theme is introduced by way of Marta's cohabitation with her girlfriend. While incidental, this bond is implicitly accepted as an equal alternative to marriage.
There's a certain air of desperation in the movie's desire to charm, divert and be liked. But as cinematic offerings go, "Last Christmas" is a bit of an ugly sweater.
The film contains a benign view of casual sex and a lesbian relationship, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, a couple of milder oaths and occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.