I’ll set the scene: it’s 2019, and you’re watching Love Actually for the 16th year in a row. You’ve read a thousand and one articles chronicling the film’s plethora of turtleneck jumpers, the cultural legacy of Keira Knightley’s baker boy hat, the parallels between “huge thighs” Natalie and Monica Lewinsky. Maybe last year, suddenly, Hugh Grant shimmying down the steps of 10 Downing Street didn’t seem quite so hilarious anymore. The Beach Boys warbling God only knows what I’d be without you, for the first time, did not making you sob into your woolly jumper. All this spells a message, clear as crystal. It’s time for a new Christmas film to warm our cynical British hearts, and Last Christmas is the obvious contender.
Hear me out. As the trailer starts, you see Emilia Clarke draped in tinsel and singing in front of some very cheap-looking festive decor, which essentially guarantees we’re going to get a very tacky singing number à la “All I Want for Christmas is You” in Love Actually. She’s playing Kate, a bleary-eyed, grumpy, directionless woman stomping around in a shabby faux-fur coat and drinking too much. Relatable? Yep. Having recovered from being ill the year before, we now find her scraping cash together by working in a Christmas store and beleaguered by a mean-spirited boss (Michelle Yeoh). “I’m a mess” Kate says, glumly stuffing styrofoam box-packaged chips into her mouth. You know what she needs? Colin Firth knows what she needs. No, it isn’t a writing retreat to France to meet an elusive yet beautiful Portuguese housekeeper named Aurelia. She needs Christmas spirit, and boy is director Paul Feig reader to stuff it down our throats.
For Last Christmas to live up to Love Actually, we’re going to need endlessly quotable one-liners in the same vein of “eight is a lot of legs, David.” Inconceivable, I hear your proclaim – but wait – Last Christmas has been written by veritable British icon and Oscar-winning screenwriter Emma Thompson, who was in Love Actually herself as a wronged wife sobbing to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and breaking all our hearts. Her sardonic British humour is surely enough to get even the biggest grinch on board with Last Christmas. In the trailer we hear Kate enthuse “we are so lucky to be alive,” and, just maybe, this could be the new tear-inducing festive mantra, taking over from Hugh Grant’s voiceover “Love, actually, is all around.” Now all we need is a completely unrelated airport scene to be shoehorned in, blathering on about something to do with the Heathrow arrivals lounge.
Another thing Last Christmas would have to try to live up to is Love Actually’s iconic soundtrack, which features a random selection of Sugababes and Dido singles you’d find on a “Noughties Easy Chillax” compilation. Fear not: for Last Christmas, there’ll be no Slade in sight because the film is BASED UPON THE MUSIC OF GEORGE MICHAEL. If that isn’t enough to get you hyped then quite frankly I don’t know what is. Imagine a montage of Henry Golding and Emilia Clarke frolicking through the streets of London while “Freedom! 90” plays in the background! It’s what we want and deserve!
As the notorious GM himself said, you gotta have faith: and another reason why I do indeed have faith is the fact Last Christmas is directed by Paul Feig. I don’t think it’s all that controversial to say that Bridesmaids (2011) is genuinely one of the best comedies of the decade, side-splitting even across the pond here in the UK. Even A Simple Favor (2018), which was a bit panned, was completely, enjoyably wild (Anna Kendrick has sex with her brother, Blake Lively floats around in three piece suits and a cane for literally no reason whatsoever). Combining this with Thompson’s British wit is surely a recipe for greatness.
Looking at the trailer, it really looks like the film could go either way: a brand-spanking new addition to our yuletide watchlist, or just a really, really bad film featuring Emilia Clarke doing a lot of Eyebrow Acting™. However, one thing is for sure: it has all the necessary ingredients to guarantee there’ll be at least one posh man who hates Christmas have some sort of bauble-inspired meltdown and shout “bugger,” and that’s enough for me.
Words by Steph Green