The director Paul Feig is rounding out a productive decade with Last Christmas, a festive flick that is aiming to become a holiday staple for years to come.
Last Christmas was released theatrically across the world this November, with Feig bringing to life a screenplay written by Bryony Kimmings and Emma Thompson (yes, it is that Emma Thompson). The film features Game of Thrones alumnus Emilia Clarke in the lead role, with Henry Golding playing the romantic interest. The movie takes viewers around some of the sights in London, with the cast also including Michelle Yeoh and Thompson herself.
Feig has spoken about the importance of a movie like Last Christmas that shares positive values to its audience. Yahoo quoted Feig on the message of his movie: “we’re all in this together… we just have to understand each other more, and just give each other a break”.
While its message may be wholesome, many early reviews have been unwilling to give the film a break. Last Christmas has accumulated a rating of 51% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, with reviews deciding that strong performances by the two leads and impressive production values are unable to save a predictable storyline. However, non-critics have been more forgiving, with the audience rating a far more respectable 81% on the same website.
Feig will likely be far more concerned with that audience score than the critic score. As Hannah-Rose Yee notes in a piece for Stylist, romcoms and Christmas movies are two of the traditional easy targets for a gleeful panning. Last Christmas ticks both those boxes, so Feig will have been aware that such a film won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
The director had the perfect response to a one-star review from Rolling Stone, tweeting the question “can our one star at least be a really really big star?” He can also take solace from how Rolling Stone gave Elf a two-star review following its release in 2003 – now it’s a cult Christmas classic.
As a lifelong @RollingStone reader, I sincerely thank you for your opinion. We can’t win everybody over but we will continue to try! I swear all of our hearts were in the right place. Can our one star at least be a really really big star? ????????❤️ https://t.co/H2xyG8BN7X
— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) November 10, 2019
Only time will tell if Last Christmas can join that hallowed group of Christmas movies that take over television channels each year. The star power of Feig, Thompson and Clarke will have raised expectations, which is why perhaps some critics are disappointed that the movie fails to push certain boundaries.
A great decade for Feig
Whatever critics think of Last Christmas, this decade will go down as a glorious success for Feig. While he first made his name in 1999 as the creator of the seminal series Freaks & Geeks, Feig has only become a heavyweight movie director in more recent years. Feig directed several episodes of The Office and Arrested Development, which gave him the grounding to jump into feature films.
2011’s Bridesmaids was Feig’s third full-length directorial work, but it was undoubtedly the moment where Feig transformed from ‘that guy who did Freaks & Geeks’ into one of the leading comedy directors in Hollywood. Feig had the luxury of working with the comedic talents of Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy, a combination which produced one of the most successful comedies of the decade.
It also broke new ground for producer Judd Apatow. Bridesmaids grossed over $26 million in its opening weekend on its way to grossing $288 million worldwide – all figures taken from Box Office Mojo – which surpassed Apatow’s previous best for Knocked Up.
Bridesmaids is now rightfully regarded as one of the best comedies of the 21st century. It has even inspired a spin-off game, with online casinos like Betway offering a Bridesmaids slot that features characters from the movie. Action movies are normally the ones that inspire games, but the humor of Bridesmaids translates perfectly into this format.
Feig subsequently worked with McCarthy on The Heat (2013), Spy (2015) and the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters. The director then turned his hand to A Simple Favor in 2018, which brought together Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively in a compellingly bizarre blockbuster.
A Simple Favor also starred Golding, one of the leads in Last Christmas. It is clear that Feig values frequent collaborators that he can trust. Feig told CinemaBlend about the lengths he went to so that he could cast Golding, an actor he describes as a ‘lovely guy’ who was perfect for the role of Tom.
This year, Feig has given us his heart with Last Christmas. The director will be hopeful that people across the world settle down with someone special at Christmas to enjoy this feelgood film. Even if they don’t, there’ll be no tears from this director with a positive message to share.