Mr. Movie

Mr. Movie: ‘Last Christmas’ has laughs, love and a special twist

“Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clark moves from dragons and such to more mundane matters of the heart. Having not seen any of her work in the HBO series, I’m not all that familiar with the buzz on the lady.

I did see her in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Clark was one of the movie’s very few bright spots. The movie is really forgettable and I quickly forgot how much I liked her work. Since this is more or less a Christmas movie, and I hate Christmas movies, I almost skipped the screening.

I’m glad I didn’t.

Clark is cast as the irresponsible Kate. She works as an elf at a year-round Christmas shop in London. It’s owned by a lady who goes by the name of Santa. Kate is not only a terrible employee but she is more or less homeless, couch shops for places to sleep, or picks up this guy or that in bars.

She avoids her controlling, crazy immigrant mom. The same goes for her judgmental sister. If either can be avoided, that’s perfect. Their relationship is complex and is one of the reasons Kate is so complex.

One day Kate meets Tom. He’s different. Tom shows her things about London that she’s never seen or noticed. He’s packed with dimensions in men that she’s never seen or experienced. Love blossoms.

Complicated love. Tom shows up on a bicycle once in awhile, talks to her, teaches her and then disappears for days. He’s only available to her when he’s wants and not when she wants him.

It leads to complications.

First the acting. Clark is joined by “Crazy Rich Asians” star Henry Golding. He bicycles in and out of the story playing Tom as a positive to Clark’s often negatively short-circuited Kate. He’s pretty good as are the supporting characters done by Michelle Yeoh and Emma Thompson who — by the way — co-wrote the script.

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This image released by Universal Pictures shows Emilia Clarke, left, and Henry Golding in a scene from "Last Christmas." Jonathan Prime Associated Press

They and the other co-stars are superb but it doesn’t matter who they cast in those roles. The name actors are good and the non-name actors playing bit parts are good, too. So what? No one in the movie really matters other than Clark. Not Golding. Not Yeoh. Not Thompson. Not anyone. Clark is unreservedly electric as a young woman who — predictably — finds her true self in the light of a mysterious, almost unreachable man.

She owns the movie from the opening scenes to the weepy ending. In fact, Clark is so good, you don’t even care that the ending is a bit heavy-handed. That said, it’s a Christmas movie and Christmas movies do that.

That leads us to the subject of Christmas movies. It’s a few days past Halloween and not even Thanksgiving, and here comes a Christmas movie. Fortunately, “Last Christmas” is set around Christmas but Christmas isn’t the focus. Still, it’s obvious the producers are out to lure the “I love Christmas movies” crowd into theaters.

Put Christmas in a title and it’s irresistible. They love anything associated with the holiday and are especially fond of the zillion Christmas movies shown on the Hallmark Channel. I think Hallmark starts its holiday movie blitz about July.

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This image released by Universal Pictures shows Emilia Clarke, left, and Emma Thompson in a scene from "Last Christmas." Associated Press

When I saw the trailer of “Last Christmas” my first thought was Hallmark movie. Then I noted the director. It’s Paul Feig. He gave us “Bridesmaids” and last year’s very tasty, “A Simple Favor,” a film that I think Alfred Hitchcock would have loved.

Those are positives.

But wait. He also did the redo of “Ghostbusters” and “Spy.” So what you’re faced with is a 50-50 shot of “Last Christmas” being worthy of not being the “last” Christmas. Ironically, what you get is a movie that is 50-50. The 50 that’s good is really, really good.

The other 50 not so much.

Clark, her exceptional performance, and Thompson and her ability to write dialogue that seems real, and that gives her characters multiple dimensions, and a very nice plot twist, make me recommend that you put “Last Christmas” on this weekend’s movie shopping list.

▪ Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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