There's a Big Twist in 'Last Christmas' That We Toooootally Didn't See Coming
That's sarcasm, folks. We definitely saw it coming.
Thrillist Entertainment writers Emma Stefansky and Esther Zuckerman went into the new holiday-themed romance Last Christmas sorta already knowing what the big twist (which will be obviously spoiled here) was going to be. Like, it's kind of obvious if you think about it for two seconds. Nevertheless, the movie gives a lot of food for thought, so they decided to have a chat about it.
Esther Zuckerman: If you really want to know the big reveal in Last Christmas, you just have to listen to the opening lyrics of the Wham! song written by George Michael: "Last Christmas, I gave you my heart." Now take that very, very literally. Have you figured it out yet? No? Don't worry, we'll get there.
Emma, you and I went into Last Christmas basically knowing the twist, right? I had heard it through the grapevine and proceeded to tell just about everyone I know. But I think it's also fair to say that even though we had spoiled ourselves, we were still eager to see how it would all play out.
So the plot: Last Christmas, written by Emma Thompson and directed by Paul Feig, follows Kate née Katarina, played by a post-Daenerys Emilia Clarke. She's a mess! You know that because she drinks, has casual sex, and has decided to let her roots grow out! She also works, coincidentally, in a Christmas store, which means she is often wearing an elf costume. Her boss is "Santa" -- Michelle Yeoh's character who goes by the name of Santa. One day, Kate encounters a mysterious (but very, very handsome) man named Tom (Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians). He doesn't use a phone, but shows up at random, taking her on adorable adventures. Seems weird, huh?
Kate was ill the previous year, and she hasn't been doing a very good job of taking care of her mind and body, electing for burgers over kale and nights of drinking instead of dealing with her feelings. But through her interactions with Tom she starts to care for herself. He wants her to take better care of her heart. Why? It's his heart! She goes to his apartment and is met by a broker who tells her it's for sale. Why? Because the man who lived there... died... last Christmas... in a bike crash. He was an organ donor who GAVE KATE HIS HEART. Phew!
I'm going to say, for as crazy as this all sounds, I actually had a nice time watching this movie. It's goofy as hell, but Clarke is totally charming. She seems much more at home as a romantic comedy lead than she ever did as Daenerys Targaryen. Plus, I'm a sap and I shed a tear. What about you, Emma?
Emma Stefansky: Emilia Clarke is SO funny, which is something I knew from watching her Game of Thrones interviews and finding myself wishing that the show would hurry up and end so she could do other stuff with her life. And she is! At last! She has such a mobile face and an enormous smile, I'm even more impressed at how stoic and stony-faced she managed to keep herself while playing the Mother of Dragons. And Henry Golding is obviously a fake human engineered in a Handsome Man Factory to drive everyone on Earth absolutely insane.
What's so remarkable to me about Last Christmas is that it's basically two manic pixie dream people competing against each other in a no-holds-barred brawl to see who can be the MOST manic, the MOST pixie. Tom prances around the cobblestone streets of their idyllic string light-strewn suburb of I guess London, twirling out of the way of passersby (so that he doesn't WALK THROUGH THEM LIKE THE GHOST HE IS), and Kate layers herself in clashing colors and animal prints (that leopard coat tho) and auditions for musicals on ice skates. It's like sitting down in a fancy restaurant and thinking you're getting a five-course-meal and instead the waiter plops down two enormous chocolate cakes in front of you and you have to eat both of them or you'll die.
The thing I loved most, though, is Michelle Yeoh's breathless, sweaty romance with that guy who keeps coming into her Christmas shop longing to ask her out. "Have you come back for the gibbon?" is the new "To me, you are perfect."
Esther: Michelle Yeoh and that man (Peter Mygind, credit where credit is due) are GOALS. I hate using the word "GOALS," but that is the only way I can define this gloriously kooky coupling.
I do want to discuss the mechanics of the twist. It's important to note that Kate and Tom do NOT actually have sex. She wants it, but he resists. They make out a couple of times, but there is absolutely no further action. I ask of you: WHY? Is there some kind of, uh, mechanics thing that prevents him from getting it on? Or is it because he thinks it would be weird if he hooked up with the person who literally has his heart? And for that matter... would it be weird to have sex with the ghost who had your heart? I honestly don't know! I also don't know if Tom is a ghost or an angel or some other kind of spirit. Anyway, to me, the message of the movie is about self love, and having sex with the ghost who had your heart is the most explicit form of self love I can imagine.
Emma: Esther, that's beautiful, and makes me wish I could have a ghost lover of my own to watch after my daily calorie intake. I, too, was greatly disappointed at the PG-ness of this movie's relationships, mostly because the two leads are attractive and I ship them. But, look, I'm not some country bumpkin: I've seen The Spirit of Christmas, I knew what was coming. Yet another Hot Christmas Ghost movie, that one also never features the main characters getting it on, even though the ghost in The Spirit of Christmas, a murdered rum-runner from the 1920s haunting a Prohibition-era B&B, is HOTTTTT.
I guess, if we're gonna get psychological with it, there probably would never have been a great time for Kate and Tom to have sex, considering the fact that, if he kept being a ghost secret from her for most of the movie, it would be kind of dishonest of him to have sex with her. Right? Would it be taking advantage of someone of you were a horny ghost who never told them that you were a ghost?
From a more technical standpoint, though, there is NO REASON these two should have spent this whole time NOT banging each other. I've read plenty of ghost narratives and studied lots of ghost rules, and I've come to this conclusion. Given the fact that ghosts, when they're around, can move things, and given the fact that when ghosts manifest they can do so with a physical body if they want -- even if it does take some effort -- I posit that if you can kiss a ghost, you can have sex with a ghost. Plus, they're a ghost! They're dead! There are literally no strings attached.
Esther: I have another important question. Which was weirder: the twist or the Brexit of it all? When a card explained that the film is set in December 2017, I briefly thought that it was going to factor the death of George Michael, who is explicitly referenced as Kate's favorite artist, into the narrative. I was wrong because I can't remember when events happened in the recent past: George Michael died on Christmas 2016. Instead, the 2017 setting is so that Thompson can fit in some commentary on Brexit. It's a noble idea. Kate's family is from what was formerly known as Yugoslavia, and part of her journey to fulfillment is accepting that identity. Thompson wasn't pulling out of thin air: Yugoslavia and the wars that led to its dismantling has been used as historical precedent for the crisis that could come from Brexit. And, yet, without the necessary context, it feels a little random? Thompson is a blast to watch as she sings Yugoslavian folk songs, but I'm not sure the subplot really accomplishes what the filmmakers are intending.
Emma: This movie is doing a lot of Stuff, which is exactly what I think keeps it from being an actually great movie. There's so much in here that's introduced with minimal payoff. Why, aside from a device to get the songs in the movie, is Kate so obsessed with George Michael? What is the purpose of the immigration narrative? Why does Kate out her sister to her parents, and then a few scenes later it's all pretty much fine? Why does Kate use a homeless shelter to further her own narrative of self-fulfillment? It all felt very disconnected to me, and I think with a stronger script, there may have been some way to make it work. It's so nearly there. I did really like all the Kate/Katarina stuff of a person unwilling to accept their own cultural identity, and Thompson moaning all the sad Slavic songs was genuinely quite funny. But it's not enough to just have the Stuff. You have to find entry points for it all, and this movie can't quite get there.
Esther: So, what's our ultimate verdict? Emilia Clarke should be in more rom-coms. So should Michelle Yeoh. Kate should have sex with the ghost from whom she got her heart.
Emma: I want a spinoff about Christmas-obsessed Michelle Yeoh and her sauerkraut enthusiast boy toy. And, yes, this movie definitely should have been sooooo much hornier. I'm glad that the final message of this piece is that more people ought to be having sex with ghosts. If that's not what the holiday season is all about, I don't know what is.