Despite tapping into the holiday spirit, ‘Last Christmas’ doesn’t sound particularly feel-good.
When Googling the phrase “Emma Thompson Christmas movie,” one of the top search results will undoubtedly be Love Actually. Richard Curtis’s ensemble Christmas movie garners both adoration and ire as it re-emerges, yearly, as either a quintessential holiday classic or 136 minutes of outdated nonsense (particularly due to its undesirable treatment of women).
Nevertheless, one thing is certain, regardless of whether you love or hate Love Actually: Thompson is both the best and worst thing about the film. The best because her acting was especially magnificent, and the worst because of her devastating arc.
As upsetting yet uncannily impressive as Thompson is in Love Actually – and you know which scene I’m talking about – the film is all the better for it. Love Actually’s power rests in its ability to engender genuine feelings of relatability in audiences despite masquerading as a reasonably feel-good holiday movie. The romance is far from perfect, and the film’s status as an ensemble piece prevents its more poignant narratives (such as Thompson’s subplot) from flourishing completely. Still, Love Actually continues to simmer in our memories because it convincingly seesaws between unadulterated, and sometimes painful, intimacy, and the complete chaos of love itself.
As Thompson is about to embark on a new Christmas movie of her own, this time as a writer, that same balance could very well be struck, too. According to Deadline, Thompson will pen the holiday-themed romance Last Christmas, which Bridesmaids’ Paul Feig is slated to direct. The London-based film will also tap the co-writing efforts of Bryony Kimmings, a UK-based live artist who wrote the confronting and gut-wrenching play A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer. This specific mash-up of names, both familiar and fresh, definitely piques curiosity.
Thompson’s onscreen writing credits have been generally well-received over the years. She has notably found success as a solo scribe as well as a co-writer. Thompson penned Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, which won her the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. She followed that up 10 years later with additional acclaimed scripts, adapting the British children’s book series “Nurse Matilda” into two whimsical Nanny McPhee movies.
Unfortunately, Thompson’s premier biographical drama, Effie Gray, did stumble as it simply turned out too inert and conventional to leave much of a lasting impression. However, she eventually bounced back with a glorious rom-com, sharing screenwriting credits with Helen Fielding and Dan Mazer on Bridget Jones’s Baby. Fielding, Mazer, and Thompson’s script managed to perfectly encapsulate the indulgent escapism that the earlier Bridget Jones movies are most famous for.
Thompson’s writing skills have clearly always been proficient as she dabbles in a number of different genres. But her writing collaboration with Kimmings could legitimately be exceptionally striking. At the very least, we can expect it to be emotionally raw given the nature of the latter’s work. After all, Kimmings’s debut play is a cancer musical that’s thoroughly aware of its own challenging and juxtapositional nature. A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer tugs on heartstrings and drags its audience into the fray by breaking the fourth wall, but the results of the stage play have been universally moving.
Kimmings covers a multitude of topics in her “social experiments;” anything from terminal illness to sexually transmitted infections is evidently fair game. She refreshingly owns her brand of discomfort too, and most of her stuff is at least partially autobiographical. Kimmings told Run Riot, “I guess in a way it is an artist’s duty to say and explore the things that are untouchable, or hard to talk about.”
The chances of Last Christmas being a rom-com a la some of Feig’s best work grow slimmer by the second. But the fact that he seems keen to continue experimenting with genre in his upcoming projects isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Audiences are still months away from his first mystery thriller, A Simple Favor. However, the two artsy trailers that tease “the darker side of Paul Feig” look very promising in their stylishness. Moreover, these teasers do a fantastic job of showcasing the film’s premise and acting talent without revealing too much about the movie’s actual plot beyond its logline. Feig’s thriller debut already feels creepy in its polished appearances, and I for one would gladly see what he continues does next in a non-comedic arena.
Last Christmas inspires conflicted feelings, to say the least, but we can surely expect big things from Thompson, Kimmings, and Feig. Their team-up certainly entertains the impression of a holiday movie that doesn’t sound all that jovial, but that doesn’t make it any less enthralling.