Last Christmas

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I’ve still got my vinyl copy of Last Christmas, after 35 years.  No idea whether it still works or not – but one of the all-time classic Christmas songs, and the late, great, George Michael, deserve so much more than this rather disappointing film.  The lead character needed a good slap, there’d been a ridiculously careless error over the dates of the Yugoslav Wars, and there weren’t even that many Wham! songs in it.  And why are these things always set in London?!  There were moments of promise, mostly involving minor characters, but none of them were fulfilled.  It was watchable, but certainly not memorable.

The main character, Kate (Katarina) was just irritating.  She was sofa surfing in London, but it was entirely her own fault that she kept being asked to leave: she showed no respect for her friends’ homes, and kept wrecking their treasured possessions and inviting strange blokes back without asking if it was OK.  And whingeing about being “homeless” when her old room at her parents’ home was ready and waiting for her. Not to mention rushing out of work – a Christmas shop, where she dressed up as an elf all day –  without locking up, as a result of which there was a break-in and the place got trashed.  She didn’t even apologise to her boss.  People’s lives do get in a mess sometimes, but you need to be able to sympathise with the person, and instead I just wanted to slap her!

And, as I said, why are these things always set in London?  And why do they always involve with people with posh Home Counties accents?  I was just waiting for Hugh Grant to turn up like he usually does!   Although, in this case, the main character with the posh Home Counties accent was supposed to have been a child refugee from “former Yugoslavia”.

At the start of the film, we got a picture of children’s choir in an Orthodox church in “Yugoslavia” in 1999.  Well, OK, technically the name “Serbia and Montenegro” wasn’t adopted until 2003.  But we were then told that the irritating Kate and her family had moved to London from “former Yugoslavia” because of “the wars”.  For a kick off, no-one says “former Yugoslavia” any more.  Everyone says Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, etc.  And whereabouts were they from, and which of the wars had they fled from?  The mum mentioned Croatia, but the war in Croatia was long over by 1995.  And it was definitely a Serbian-looking church.  OK, they could have been Croatian Serbs from Krajina, but why would they have been fleeing in 1999?!  There was fighting in Kosovo in 1999, but most of the people who left were Kosovo Albanians, who do not have Slavic names, speak a Slavic language, or, as a general rule, attend Orthodox churches or any other churches.  It just all gave the impression that the scriptwriters didn’t know what they were talking about.

Presumably Emma Thompson, she who flew from California to London on a carbon-emitting plane just to protest about climate change, was trying to show how right on/woke she was by having a main character who was a refugee, but the fact that no-one could even be bothered to check the dates was really rather insulting to the many people who suffered so terribly as a result of the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and the wars that followed.  Not impressed.  /rant

We learnt that Kate had had a heart transplant, and that that was supposedly why she was so flaky and irresponsible, but she was so annoying that I was hard to sympathise – although it was easier to sympathise with her worried mum, whose phone calls kept being ignored.   In fact, several of the minor characters were far more appealing than Kate (which wasn’t hard), but sadly we didn’t get to see much of them.  The mum, who’d been traumatised by her experiences in the wars – although that would have worked better if a) they’d actually bothered to check the dates of the wars and b) Emma Thompson hadn’t played her like a stereotype in a ’70s sitcom.  The dad, who’d been a lawyer in “former Yugoslavia” but hadn’t been able to retrain and was working as a taxi driver.  The sister, who’d felt pressurised into becoming a lawyer to live her dad’s dream for him, and hadn’t told her parents that her “flatmate” was actually her girlfriend.  All the people at the homeless centre where she ended up volunteering – what were their stories?  Kate’s boss, played by Michelle Yeoh, who seemed to have had umpteen different jobs and was obsessed with Christmas – what was her story?

And Tom, the really nice, if totally uncharismatic, guy – why do really nice guys in films always chase after horrible partners?!  – who was a volunteer at a homeless centre, and managed to show Kate the error of her ways … before a sad twist in the tale.  She ended up organising a fundraising concert and apologising to all the people she’d upset.  It was all pretty cheesy, but that’s fine in a Christmas rom-com as long as the film’s OK and the characters are nice.  This, unfortunately, was all a bit of a let-down.  And I was expecting it to be full of Wham! songs, but in fact there were only a few.  It didn’t even include Careless Whisper!

It wasn’t a bad idea, I suppose.  Nasty character is redeemed in time for Christmas – very Charles Dickens.  But Scrooge isn’t the hero, and Kate was supposed to be the heroine.  Getting the dates of the wars wrong was appalling, and it was all just a bit silly.   Last Christmas, one of the greatest Christmas songs ever, deserved better!