Saturday, December 19, 2020

A Heartfelt Christmas

Last Christmas
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh
Released: November 8, 2019

If I were to describe this movie to someone, I would be tempted to say "It's The Blank Blank of Christmas movies", but if I said that, I would totally give away a certain plot line. (Hence why I'm not revealing which movie I would compare it to! If you've already seen the movie, you probably know which movie I'm talking about!) In fact, I plan to have a spoiler section since this movie only came out last year (Hey! Last Christmas came out last Christmas!) and people may not even realize that there are things that could be spoiled, but there are! 

This movie has a whimsical element to it and it made me think of something Cecelia Ahern would write, but the script was written by Emma Thompson and her husband. The gist of this movie is about a twenty-six-year-old girl named Kate (Emilia Clark) who lives in London and her life is a bit of a mess, but she meets a guy named Tom (Henry Golding) and they start up a sweet relationship and he helps her become better person. Oh, and it takes place during Christmas, obviously, so it's a feel-good movie. It's not without its angsty parts, of course. 

Now I'll talk about the movie in a little more depth WITHOUT going into any spoiler territory. Don't worry, I will give ample warning when I get to spoilers!

So I knew the movie got its title from the George Michael Christmas song, but I didn't realize his other songs would also be featured predominantly in this. Off the top of my head, I remember "Faith", "Freedom '90", "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go", and "One More Try" are part of the movie's soundtrack. Kate is an inspiring singer and she is a fan of George Michael's. She says they're "kindred spirits" because they're both singers and they're both "famously misunderstood and under appreciated in our time." She lives out of a suitcase that has a heart sticker that says "George Michael forever" on it. Okay, when I hear the name "George Michael", my mind immediately goes to Michael Cera's character in Arrested Development, George Michael Bluth.

Kate's full name is Katarina and she's originally from Yugoslavia, but her family moved to London because of the war. She seems to get along well with her dad, but not so much with her mom (Emma Thompson) or her sister, Marta, who has her life together, unlike Kate. Kate doesn't have her own place (hence why she lives out of her suitcase), so she just lodges with friends until she overstays her welcome (which usually happens pretty quickly!) or she goes to a bar and finds some guy to take her back to his place. 

Since wanting to be an aspiring singer doesn't pay the bills, Kate works at a Christmas store called Yuletide that is opened all year round. It is run by a Chinese woman (Michelle Yeoh) who calls herself "Santa". She loves Christas a lot. (A LOT!) This store is huge! It's two stories! And it sells a lot of crap. A couple pieces I remember are a gibbon who screeches "Last Christmas" and a hippopotamus cheerleader ornament that's holding pom-poms. Yeah, there's some weird stuff in this store. It's usually quite busy when we see Kate working, but that's probably because it's so close to Christmas. I have to wonder how busy this shop is during the other seasons. It seems like Santa and Kate are the only people who work there. Kate wears a green elf costume and Santa refers to her as "Elf". She tells Kate she should be named "Lazy the Elf" because she "never appears to work." 

One night, Kate has an audition and is running late for it. She's the last one to leave the store and is supposed to lock up, but forgets because she is in a hurry to get to the audition she's late for and is going to tank anyway. When she returns to work the next day, she sees that glass from the window has been knocked out with a brick and the place inside has been trashed with a bunch of broken ornaments and knocked over trees. Two policewoman are there taking a statement from Santa and they surmise that it must have been done by a couple of kids. After the policewoman leave, Santa is angry at at Kate and knows she forgot to lock up because she tells her she had to break the glass to make it look like a break-in so she could get the insurance money. She tells her, "You turned me into someone who broke the law." Santa is going to give her one more chance, but if anything else happens she's fired. We find out that at one time Kate was great at her job and had a way with people and that's why Santa took her on full-time, but "since [she] came back [she] started losing [her] sh*t." Come back from what, you ask? Well, that's a good question. Throughout the movie, we get clues that Kate has been sick, but you don't find out right away exactly what happened or why she was sick. We just know she's been sick and "needs to take care of herself better." She's also missed five doctor's appointments, so whatever it is, it seems serious and she's been slacking off. 

While her life is in shambles, she meets Tom who she first sees outside the shop window while she's dusting a display case. She finds him quite peculiar because he's looking up at something and is so curious as to what he's looking at, that she goes outside and asks him. He points to a bird who is nesting above them and it chooses that moment to poo in Kate's eye. He tells her it's good luck (I actually looked it up and it seems to be a thing!) and asks her if she'd like to go for a stroll later. Kate is not impressed. She asks, "Oh, that's my luck, going for a stroll with you?" 

After she goes to her audition (the one she was in a hurry to get to that she forgot to lock up), she bumps into Tom outside and accuses him of following her. He suggests they go for that stroll and she agrees. He's very whimsical, always dancing and skipping around light posts and benches like he's Fred Astaire from Singin' in the Rain. His mantra is "Look up." She does and gets super pissed she falls into a heap of trash bags. It's pretty funny, but I would be pretty furious too, so I don't blame her! However, her irritations soon passes and she's delighted when she sees things she's never noticed before on a street she's been down so many times like a sculpture of a cricket and artwork of two mice playing. He also introduces her to a small "secret garden" kind of hidden in the middle of the city that she never knew existed. There's only a few people there and Tom tells Kate about all of them. He tells Kate "You're one of us now" and that she can't share anyone's secret because it's an unspoken rule.

When they're ready to part, Tom asks Kate if she would like to "repeat the experience" again. When she asks for his number, he tells her doesn't have a phone. This (naturally) shocks her, so he corrects himself and says he DOES have a phone, but it's "locked in a cupboard" because he "got so tired of staring at [his] hand all day" and tells her she should try it and she just scoffs at him and replies, "That's like saying you should try death." He tells her if she ditches her phone, then "All of your stresses will just melt away." Luckily he knows where she works, so that's usually where they run into each other. 

On one of their other "dates", Tom sneaks them both into an ice-skating rink. She had told him she had an upcoming audition for Frozen and it's being performed on ice (makes sense to me!). She has never even skated before and had planned to just wing it, so he decides to help her learn to ice skate until they get busted and have to run away. Tom doesn't even know what Frozen is and Kate laughs in his face and just assumes he's joking (like anyone would), then realizes he's serious. I found this to be the least believable thing about this movie; even people who live under a rock have heard of Frozen! It's a very cute scene, the two of them skating together and we get a lot of close up shots of Emilia Clark's face making awed expressions and she is very adorable. Kate calls it a successful date as it checked off the following boxes: "fun, free, illegal, romantic" Tom also points out it was practical because it will hep her with her audition. 

Kate sees Tom again right after she's been kicked out of the house where she was crashing with her pregnant friend and her husband (the pregnant friend's husband) and I don't blame them for kicking her out: she goes out and brings a guy back, then the next morning she (accidentally) ruins this art project the husband was working (I think it was something for the baby's room?) and we know the husband already isn't a fan of hers because she had previously accidentally set his model matchstick galleon on fire when she was lighting a candle nearby. 

Kate sees Tom and tells him she's homeless again and he takes her to a homeless shelter. She is not impressed and says, "Thanks Bono or Mother Teresa or whoever wins the moral superiority prize." When he tells her he volunteers there, she replies, "Christ, why don't you just get "saint" tattooed on your forehead?" Kate is obviously not "homeless" because she does have her parents' house if she needs a place to sleep and we see her go there when she doesn't have any other options. When she's trying to find Tom, who she hasn't heard from or seen in a couple of days, she goes to the homeless shelter looking for him. He's not there, but she ends up helping serve tea and biscuits.  

Kate's mom has a family dinner planned to celebrate Marta's promotion and nothing goes right. Kate's mom tells her she's "wasting her life" and "only a miracle saved her." Marta accuses her of being ashamed of herself because she doesn't care about anything and Kate retorts that she isn't the one who's ashamed of who she is and lets it slip that the woman who lives with her just isn't her flatmate like her parents think, but her girlfriend. Marta is furious at Kate and leaves. Kate also leaves where she has a drink at a bar, then goes to the homeless shelter. It looks like she's about to enter, but ends up walking away and sees Tom come up to her on his bike. On top of being upset about the evening's events, she's also upset with Tom because she hasn't seen him in two days and has been wondering where he's been and that he's "been disappearing for days on end." 

Kate finally gets to see where Tom lives when he takes her back to his flat, which is very small and tidy. He even opens his kitchen cupboard to show her his phone is indeed inside it. They have a nice heart to heart and Kate tells him what was wrong with her. Now up to this point, we've been getting some clues, but this is the scene where we actually learned what happened. Now even though this doesn't reveal anything too spoiler-y, I'm not going to disclose this information until I get to spoilers because as soon as I saw this scene, I immediately guessed where this movie was going and I was right. I will tell you that she doesn't like telling other people about what happened and she tells Tom about it because she trusts him and that he's "the one person that makes me feel solid. Like I exist." Tom comforts her by stroking her hair when she's laying her head in his lap and, ahem, looks up at him. That tied nicely back to his mantra. 

After this scene, she starts feeling better, being comforted by Tom and all. She starts doing nice things, like buying a latte for Santa just because it's Monday. She surprises her boss even more when she tells her she's thinking about giving auditioning a break because she's not sure if it's good for her. (She didn't get the Frozen part...I wonder who she was auditioning for, anyway?) Santa commends her, telling her that sounds like a healthy choice and that she hasn't made one of those in a very long time. She also starts singing Christmas songs outside the homeless shelter for donations and is super proud of herself when she receives her first offering. It's not much, but she donates her proceeds to the shelter and continues to sing where she makes more money. She gets the idea to have a Christmas fund-raising benefit on Christmas Eve for the shelter. We even see her right her wrongs, such as apologize to her sister, give a goldfish to a friend when she accidentally killed his super expensive saltwater tropical fish when she absent-mindedly dropped her hairdryer in the fish tank, and gives her married friends who are expecting a baby a big baby basket (and a new model galleon for the husband). Obviously Tom is having a good effect on her and she is wanting to be a better person. 

However, once again we find out that Kate hasn't heard from Tom in days and that "he's disappeared again." One of the volunteers who she met at the homeless shelter the first time she went there looking for Tom, tells her, "He seems to be disappearing a lot. Is he a magician?" Yes, Tom is mysterious. What is going on with him? The same volunteer tries to put Kate at ease telling her, "He's probably just scared of what he feels for you."

Luckily Kate finds Tom in the hidden garden, sitting on their bench and they share a kiss and she's happy again and tells him it feels like they're in a relationship. Tom has a serious look on his face and tells her there's something he needs to tell her and of course this concerns Kate and she goes through all the possibilities of what it could be: he's gay, he's married, he needs space, he can't commit. Tom tells her she can't depend on him (although he doesn't say why) and Kate insists that she doesn't depend on him. She tells him if this is about commitment, then to just say so. Tearfully, she tells him, "I look for you everywhere and you're never there. And it makes me feel really bad about myself. And I'm finally getting better and not feeling bad about myself."

Olay, I think this is a good time to reveal what is going on. I think I've told you everything about what goes on in the movie without giving anything away (I certainly hope I didn't unintentionally spoil anything! I was trying hard to be very careful about that!) 

Okay, so I didn't reveal what her illness/medical condition was because while it doesn't give away the big spoiler, it did immediately give away the "twist" to me when it was revealed. Like I said, before she tells Tom what happened, we are given little clues. We know she's had an operation. When Kate and her mom go to her doctor's appointment, she is told she needs to take better care of her heart: "You need to rest more, eat better, drink less, and stop being so angry." Okay, so now we know it's something to do with her heart. Then we get that scene where she tells Tom what happened because she trusts him. Believe me, when I wrote "They have a nice heart to heart...", I was so tempted to write "(pun intended)" but I couldn't because that would have given it away! So Kate tells him she had a heart transplant and shows him her scar. She tells him she doesn't tell people "because they get weird", but she trusts Tom to tell him because she doesn't think he'll be weird about it. She tells him, "They took out my heart....I don't know what they put back, but it felt weird and different and strange and like I'd lost my most special part." She told him she knew she was lucky to be alive, but didn't feel alive. So it was during this moment when I realized the big reveal is in the first line of the song this movie is named after: "Last Christmas I gave you my heart..." Um, hello! SHE HAS HIS HEART! TOM IS A GHOST! He was dead all along! This is The Sixth Sense of Christmas movies!! It certainly explains why he doesn't have a phone and why he's not always there (although if you're a ghost, you'd think you have all the free time in the world...) However, it does not explain why he doesn't know Frozen. If he died before it came out, I could understand that, but no, he died in 2016 and it came out in 2013, so I'm scratching my head over that one. 

Tom being dead the whole time isn't revealed here (remember, she still has to have that talk with him on their bench in the hidden garden...where she kissed him...not sure how that happened! She must have looked pretty silly to the people who were also sitting in the garden that day...hopefully they were all preoccupied with their own things!) When she goes to his apartment, she sees a guy there and is surprised to find out he's there to show the place for prospetive buyers. This confuses Kate and assumes Tom must have moved out, but the guy tells her the place "has been empty for months", so Kate figures Tom must have been squatting there. This makes the guy annoyed that there was the possibility of someone sneaking in and staying in the place and tells her, "It's that probate stuff that stops us from doing our jobs." Kate questions him and he goes, "Yeah, you know, when someone dies." Naturally, Kate starts getting confused and asks who died. He tells her "the previous owner", somebody named Webster and this turns Kate's blood to ice. Did I mention that Tom's last name was Webster? He died in a bike accident, ahem, last Christmas, the same day Kate was taken to the hospital to receive her new heart, Tom's heart. 

Even though Kate now knows the truth, she can still see and hear him because she has one last chat with him in their secret garden. When she asks him why she can feel him, he replies, "Because I'm a part of you." She promises to take care of his heart and he tells her, "It was always going to be yours one way or another", implying that they would have met and dated if he had never died. It's then when we can actually see what is inscribed on the plaque on their bench. It's a dedication to Tom with his name, date of birth, date of death, and the words "Look up".

All of this happens very close to Christmas Eve, which is the day of the Christmas benefit she's putting on for the homeless shelter. Everyone we've met in the movie is in the audience, so you see a lot of familiar faces. Even Tom shows up, being the Ghost of Christmas Present, I suppose. Before the shows starts, Kate gives a heartfelt speech: "We are so lucky to be alive. We are so lucky to be able to help each other in little ways and in big ways. The reason we are lucky is because helping each other is, in fact, what makes us happy." Cue me wiping away tears. Then she sings (what else?) "Last Christmas". The movie ends with her sitting on her special bench and looking up into the sky. 

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