Emma Thompson writes a holiday rom-com inspired by the music of George Michael? Can. Not. Compute.
Kate (Emilia Clarke), having recently recovered from a major illness, is sort of spinning her wheels in life. A weekend job she took in a year-round Christmas store has turned into a permanent position. Singing at auditions isn’t bringing her joy. She avoids going home because her overbearing mother Petra (Emma Thompson) is a piece of work and maybe wishes Kate was still sick. She’s just going through the motions, sowing some oats, not being a very good friend or daughter or sister or employee. Not being very good to herself. Still, she’s a little embarrassed that her negligence resulted into a break-in at the store. Her boss, Santa (Michelle Yeoh), has a brusque exterior but is decent and kind at heart. This is your wake up call, Kate, even if she doesn’t yet know how to answer it.
Around this time, two mysterious men show up in or around the store: one for Santa, and one for Kate. Kate is curious about Tom (Henry Golding) but not overly attracted to him. Still, they start spending a lot of time together, and he grows on her, not least of all because he’s someone she can confide in. He listens to her, wants the best for her, helps her restart her life. He’s the perfect guy, basically, with a whimsy to him and an irresistible smile.
You might say the trailers are a bit misleading but we should have known that Emma Thompson (who came up with the story along with husband Greg Wise and co-wrote the script with Bryony Kimmings) wouldn’t be responsible for a run-of-the-mill rom-com. If you divorce yourself from the concept, I think you’ll find the film is actually pretty worthwhile. And can we just have a moment of appreciation for cinematographer John Schwartzman who seems to have lit a movie entirely with Christmas lights? Magnifique!
I straddled a line with this movie – I hate to do Christmassy things too early in the ‘season’ – for me, Christmas doesn’t really start until December 7th, and I don’t like to do anything much before December 1st. Of course, having this site forces me to watch holiday movies far in advance of that, so I’ve only just seen Last Christmas despite its November 8th release (of course, wait too long and it may no longer be in theatres). It didn’t fill me with the Christmas spirit, though that’s not offered as a criticism – it did satisfy me as a movie-goer. Talented actors play flawed characters who don’t normally populate romantic films, yet they still deserve their happy endings. Small bits of politics are kneaded artfully into the dough. But even if the batter tastes familiar, this ain’t no cookie-cutter Christmas movie.