OK, let’s just talk about the elf costume, because it is adorable. Kate (Emilia Clarke, of “Game of Thrones”), in “Last Christmas,” has a uniform for her job as a salesclerk in a year-round Christmas shop, and it is a holly-green velvet fit-and-flare minidress, with a black Santa-ish belt and white fur trim, accessorized with a floppy green stocking cap and pointy green elf boots (which, we learn during the film, handily tear away; they’re actually boot outfits). In it, Clarke looks utterly endearing, like a tiny, bundled-up Rockette who got separated from the group on a field trip.
And why am I going on so much about this outfit? Well, because I’m stalling for time while trying to get my head around the idea that a rom-com starring Clarke and the equally charming Henry Golding (“Crazy Rich Asians,” “A Simple Favor”) could fall so flat. Nobody is cuter than these two — the eye-twinkling factor alone is off the charts. And yet … “Last Christmas,” set in a storybook London where every available surface is decorated with sparkling holiday lights, is ultimately an odd little story, leaving its viewer not with holiday cheer but with George Michael overload and a furrowed brow.
Essentially, Kate is an adorable screw-up; she’s trying to avoid her overbearing mother (Emma Thompson, who inexplicably co-wrote the screenplay), couch-surfs at the homes of her fed-up friends, and tromps around London in her elf boots wondering why her life is such a mess. Enter Tom (Golding), a nicer-than-nice guy who, with his sunny demeanor and wardrobe of monochromatic separates, charms Kate. Because this is theoretically a rom-com, the course of true love cannot run smooth, and if you have seen the movie’s trailer, you might well guess the obstacle to Tom and Kate’s happiness (I did). It is … well, an obstacle.
Directed by Paul Feig (whose work — i.e. “Bridesmaids,” “Spy,” “The Heat” — is usually much funnier), “Last Christmas” is stuffed full of George Michael songs, winsome smiles, social responsibility, positive messages and the occasional randomly amusing moment, such as Michelle Yeoh, as Kate’s boss, presenting an ornament she describes as “a Christmas gibbon.” (Every ornament in the shop is utterly terrifying; you wonder how Kate sleeps at night.) But its central characters never find much chemistry — Clarke’s Kate is a one-note character, which is one note more than Golding’s character gets — and I left “Last Christmas” with many, many questions, none of which I can share here without giving away too much. The elf costume, though? Just right.
★★ “Last Christmas,” with Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson. Directed by Paul Feig, from a screenplay by Thompson and Bryony Kimmings. 103 minutes. Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content. Opens Nov. 8 at multiple theaters.