Inspired by Wham!’s 1984 holiday classic, “Last Christmas,” a romantic comedy by the same title is your typical, feel good Christmas movie—filled with sometimes cheesy, but lovable characters all within the magic of the festive season. Although this film caters to those who can’t get enough of holiday love stories, it also features a heartwarming tribute to George Michael as many of his hit songs surround the film’s premise.
“Last Christmas” stars Emilia Clarke, previously known for her role as Daenerys Targaryen in “Game of Thrones,” along with Henry Golding and Emma Thompson. Kate, played by Clarke, works as an elf in an extravagant Christmas shop and finds her life spinning out of control. From being kicked out of her friend’s house as a result of her partying lifestyle to causing a store break-in due to her forgetful state of mind, Kate feels like she can’t do anything right.
When Kate meets Tom, played by Golding, she gets pulled into a whirlwind romance, which takes a dramatic turn at the end—directly relating to the lyrics of the hit its based on.
Thankfully, the film includes Michael’s most well-known hits outside of the holiday staple—spanning from the ‘80s bliss of Wham!’s “Everything She Wants” to the sonically uplifting “Freedom! ‘90.” When listening to these classics in a big screen setting, it’s difficult to bottle up your joy when watching—making it clear that forming the film’s soundtrack around Michael’s impactful artistry was a wonderful decision.
Although it’s crucial to introduce the more mainstream aspects of Michael’s massive catalog to younger audiences who aren’t as familiar with the singer’s work, it’s equally as important to add in lesser known songs for the Michael fanatics. “Waiting for That Day,” from Michael’s 1990 album “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1,” makes a surprise appearance along with a couple of songs from his later projects—including the jazzy “Move On.”
The heartfelt acoustic ballad, “Heal the Pain,” remained the centerpiece of the movie even though “Last Christmas” spearheads the concept. Clarke’s character, who has posters of an aviator wearing Michael in her childhood bedroom, has a deep connection to the song—starting the film off with her singing it as a young girl alongside a choir.
Hearing Michael sing the powerful lyrics, “Be good to yourself/’Cause nobody else/Has the power to make you happy,” in the theater serves as an emotional experience—relating it to not only the plot, but to Michael’s deeply introspective songwriting and angelic voice.
Directed by Paul Feig, who previously worked on “Bridesmaids,” and co-written by Thompson, who also plays Kate’s mother, the treatment for the film received Michael’s blessing before his passing. Besides including his timeless soundtrack, the film also highlighted causes that were important to the singer—connecting to the universal theme of giving back.
“During the development of the project, I met with George and told him the story that we had, and he loved it, and he was particularly thrilled about all the stuff [in the movie] about homelessness,” Thompson told ABC News. “Because he [had] a passionate social conscience.”
Keeping the heartwarming cheesiness in mind, “Last Christmas” isn’t supposed to be this grandiose, Oscar-winning production—an unspoken, yet widely known sentiment for any holiday movie. Audiences are bound to be critical on more technical aspects that “fit” into the category of a groundbreaking film, but you have to keep in mind its purpose, which is to simply put a smile on your face. And that, it accomplishes.
Rylee Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @rybyjackson.