Michelle Yeoh‘s movie career is taking a turn that not many of us were necessarily expecting. She is mostly known as a bona fide action and sci-fi star, whose broad credits include Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Star Trek: Discovery (she’s so good in the latter that she could star in her own spinoff series). Nevertheless, Yeoh also stole the show last summer in the smash hit romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians. Now, she continues to add to her relatively small selection of romance movies by joining a quirky holiday project in development by Paul Feig.
As announced by The Hollywood Reporter, Yeoh has boarded Last Christmas, a London-set holiday romance penned by Emma Thompson and artist Bryony Kimmings. She will be reunited with her Crazy Rich Asians co-star Henry Golding on the project, while Game of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke is set to star as well.
Apart from such an excellent pedigree of actors, Last Christmas has held our interest for a long time, even when the film’s plot hadn’t been made totally clear. Upon initial announcement, Thompson and Kimmings’ involvement in the project had me thinking that Feig was potentially moving away from his comedy schtick in favor of something darker. This was due to Kimmings’ penchant for experimental art coupled with the fact that A Simple Favor hadn’t been released either. That particular Feig picture seemed more thrilling than funny at the time.
That said, a Radio Times interview with Kimmings soon revealed that Last Christmas is really inspired by the classic Wham! song of the same name. Moreover, song scribe George Michael had actually collaborated on the film’s concept before he sadly passed away in 2016. The film’s synopsis goes as follows: Kate (to be played by Clarke) works as an elf in a year-round Christmas store and has started dating a man named Tom (Golding). Throughout their relationship, she observes that he is exceptional — well, practically unbelievable — at reading her emotions and perceiving of her inner turmoil.
In a knee-jerk reaction, I find myself looking at what is clearly still a very brief synopsis and immediately determining that it doesn’t sound like the most exciting premise. Sure, THR is teasing that unreleased George Michael material will see the light of day in the film. Moreover, there is a market for cheesy holiday movies; I personally love indulging in them, too. Yet, that summary just doesn’t sound as charismatic as other Feig films.
To be fair though, being an alarmist might not serve us well when considering Feig’s past work. Here’s what IMDb has to say about the supremely funny action comedy Spy: “A desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster.” The buddy cop comedy The Heat can be boiled down to: “An uptight FBI Special Agent is paired with a foul-mouthed Boston cop to take down a ruthless drug lord.” Finally, Bridesmaids — an indelible classic in the director’s oeuvre — is easily summed up by the site as such: “Competition between the maid of honor and a bridesmaid, over who is the bride’s best friend, threatens to upend the life of an out-of-work pastry chef.” These summaries bank on stereotypical genre movie tropes and circumstances. However, their end products have been individually fulfilling. Hence, there could be much more to Last Christmas than meets the eye.
Obviously, Feige’s sardonic offerings are also often further sustained by the sheer magnetism of the performers inhabiting them. Melissa McCarthy is a huge common denominator in all of his movies, but each time that he enlists fantastic counterparts, including the talents of Kristen Wiig, Sandra Bullock, or Anna Kendrick, he stumbles upon more creative and charming ways to deliver his biting brand of humor.
The many years of watching Yeoh command the screen in a variety of wuxia films (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), historical dramas (The Soong Sisters), sci-fi thrillers (Sunshine), and high-octane action flicks (Yes, Madam) confirm that she definitely has a similarly distinguishing screen presence as it is. Her characters are often quietly powerful, although they are importantly never flat.
Seeing Yeoh transplant those skills into the romantic-comedy arena in Crazy Rich Asians is frankly thrilling. There are dragon mother stereotypes and then there is her character; a terrifyingly quiet, overbearing mother with a heart. She portrays her character Eleanor as a woman who is not simply defined by her status as a parent. Rather, her own sacrifices and motivations are given appropriate weight in the narrative. Despite the fact that her part could have been so much more sidelined, stagnant, and boring, Yeoh is instead both infuriating and strangely understandable as Eleanor.
Therefore, the prospect of her teaming with Feig and the rest of the Last Christmas crew is very promising. It’s the perfect amalgam of director and actor and if anyone was hoping to break into the rom-com space, this is the way to do it.