Tag Archives: Henry Golding

Last Christmas

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.

A Simple Favor

Emily (Blake Lively) is effortlessly cool and glamourous. She works a high-profile job in the city and has a handsome husband and an air of mystery. No one is more surprised than Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a single mom and mommy blogger, when Emily befriends her. Their boys are friendly in school and now the mums are friendly over martinis.

But just weeks after an unlikely friendship blossoms between Emily and Stephanie, Emily calls her with a request for a simple favor: a work emergency has popped up, could Stephanie pick up her son from school? Two days later, the son is still in Stephanie’s care, and no one had heard from Emily.

As the investigation into Emily’s disappearance deepens, Emily’s secrets unravel. Her MV5BMTUzNDc3NTM4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzYxNTM0NTM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_husband Sean (Henry Golding) is very revealing. Turns out, Emily was a pathological liar and her past was very closely guarded. Stephanie doesn’t know what to think about her friend, but her doubts don’t exactly stop her from getting cozy with Sean…and eventually moving right in. Which seems like a bitch move from a grieving best friend, but then, the recent widower isn’t exactly objecting. Why is Sean not objecting?

Anna Kendrick is very good at being a pathetic loser, and Blake Lively is extraordinary at being a clotheshorse. This movie is exceedingly stylish. Blake Lively’s menswear-inspired wardrobe is to die for, but I swear I’m not the one who killed her. But no matter how you dress this thing up, it’s no Gone Girl, but that’s exactly what it wants you to mistake it for. Unfortunately, it can’t quite embrace any one genre. It often looks noir but goes for the easy laugh. Which one is it, truly? I admire that Kevin Feig went for a blend of both, but I don’t think he quite pulled it off. However, if you’re a fan of the Kendrick-Lively duo, they’ve never been Livelier or more Kendricky. They each know their strengths, and Feig gives them a beautiful stage on which to drip their special sauces.

Crazy Rich Asians

Netflix has quietly been reviving the rom-com: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Kissing Booth, and Set It Up have all drawn in big numbers for the streaming service, and to be honest, for us Assholes too, even though I didn’t like any of those movies, and was actively offended by at least one of them. Netflix was smart enough to offer a very lucrative deal to the team behind Crazy Rich Asians, but that team knew that if they were successful, they could make not just a film, but an event, a landmark, even. It’s been 25 years since we had an all Asian or Asian-American cast (with The Joy Luck Club), which is a number as astonishing as it is embarrassing. But with this summer’s indie successes for Blindspotting, Sorry To Bother You, and BlacKkKlansman, (and heck, I’d even put Eighth Grade on that list) audiences are proving that diverse casting and story-telling is more than welcome in theatres.

I read Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan some time ago and kind of loved it. It’s one of those fluffy, easy reads that was somehow elevated by the specific characters and setting. It opened the door to a hidden part of Asian culture and it made the reader feel part of the secret. So while I try my best to support diverse stories with my dollars, Crazy Rich Asians had already hooked me with its story. Could the film live up to the book?

In a word,  yes. Of course, it diverges from the book in some pretty big ways, but I think the spirit is definitely there.

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It’s about Rachel (Constance Wu), a Chinese-American who flies to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) to meet his family for the first time. Nick fails to prepare her for his family’s immense wealth, or for their insular, reclusive, snobbish lifestyle. Their rejection of her is immediate and definite. His mother (Michelle Yeoh) and aunts are downright cold, and the other young women (who perhaps fancied themselves in the running for his hand, and his inheritance) are wickedly cruel. Still, Rachel persists, determined to put on a brave face as she navigates the lavish “wedding of the century” featuring Nick’s best friend Colin as the groom and the beautiful Araminta as the stunning, head-turning bride. Rachel’s only ally is her college friend and roommate Peik Lin (Awkwafina) whose own fortune is dwarfed by the deep pockets of old money in Nick’s family.

Director Jon M. Chu has only two hours to communicate the impressive opulence that the book devotes chapter upon chapter to, and while he could never quite achieve the great wall of wealth presented in the book, he works hard visually to transplant the luxuriance and splendor directly into our brains. And of course the scene that works best for this is the wedding – a wedding that cost the bride’s parents more than Donald Trump could piss away in a lifetime. Tens of millions. It’s seriously impressive.

And so is the large ensemble cast – though because of their numbers and the obvious time crunch, we don’t get to know nearly as many of them even half as well as we do in the book. This is very much the story of Rachel and Nick, and everyone else takes a backseat. Although Rachel’s best friend, and curiously, that friend’s dad take up a fair bit more screen time than the novel would suggest. That’s because Chu has the delightful Awkwafina and zany Ken Jeong adding their signature spice to the mix, and Nico Santos as well, which means Crazy Rich Asians isn’t just romance and jaw-dropping locations – this shit is funny.

And it’s a lot of fun to watch, highly entertaining and enormously enjoyable. At times it veers almost into the fantastical, but it’s definitely the kind of movie that sweeps you away, from over-the-top sets and locations to the recognizable pop songs with an Asian twist. Even Sean, who probably likes your typical rom-com even less than I do, chuckled throughout and declared it a good deal of fun – and for once I could repay the favour by keeping him back for a mid-credits scene. The movie is, almost by definition I suppose, more formulaic than the book, but the familiarity is broken by the eye-popping setting and fresh cultural references. And if you love it, and I bet you will, that mid-credits scene hints at a possible sequel…in fact, the books make up a trilogy. Isn’t that just the best news you’ve heard all day? Get thee to a theatre for a Crazy Good Movie today.