15 August 2019 789 Views

Last Christmas Trailer: a new Lesson in Pain via Processed, Packaged, Mediocre Marketing Motifs.

by James Murphy

LAST CHRISTMAS’ trailer captures everything wrong with Cinema, with Society and with Life.  It’s so impossibly awful, Actually. 

 

I know. It’s just a trailer. The actual MOVIE, Last Christmas might be GREAT! And it’s directed by the NICEST, most talented comedy director in Hollywood: Mr Paul Feig. A gentleman, of style and distinction. I adore his work, including the unfairly maligned Ghostbusters (2016), which I thought had wit and warmth and heart.

Also: Emilia Clarke as leading lady: exquisite in SOLO, Game of Thrones et al and a real world survivor.

That’s what makes this trailer so heartbreaking because I feel that potentially dream-team of personnel has been led astray into a marketing by numbers fiasco.

Now, once again, must emphasise: I am talking here NOT about a movie I’m yet to see and probably will not see and which, even if I did, would inspire a far shorter and probably kinder review. No. I’m talking about marketing tropes here and zeitgeist moral motifs that make this TRAILER among the most odious and tedious..ever!  

How do I loathe thee? Let me Count the ways…

 

1: It’s a CHRISTMAS movie!

That means that, for some, inexplicable reason, one need not bother injecting original atmosphere or morality. It’s done, for you. Lights! Ice Skates! Homeless shelters! Now, were this say a Hallmark movie, factory floor, production line job? It’d be fine: filling in an innocuously funny /saccharine sweet 90 minutes as you wrap presents and deck your own halls. Attention focus not required.

You would generally throw in Dean ‘SUPERMAN’ Cain (also on directing /writer duties, on occasion as he has talent and versatility to match work ethic). Plus and  A N Other blonde actress / She-Ra clone /CNN Sportscaster type and ..bingo..lovely, harmless xmas filler. Unintentionally funny, too so you get laughs, galore, as you count the formulaic tropes. And somehow, a genuine glimmer of Christmas gloss and the faux hope that goes with that. Straight to DVD /TV To order, annually. Perfectly fine.

But LAST CHRISTMAS gets a CINEMATIC RELEASE. WORLDWIDE. And, at first glance? It is WORSE than ANYTHING the beloved and well meaning Hallmark people have made. Ever. This is nauseating, manipulative, mawkish, exploitative and above all, just not funny. But hey: stick it at CHRISTMAS and..Bingo: You’ll have a Richard Curtis level rom-com instant classic. No. Just No! Stop it..stop it now..make it stop! Please..

But hey..I’m not moved easily by Christmas imagery on film. I loathe It’s a Wonderful Life, for starters (deeply depressing /distressing; sold as ‘feel-good’). So maybe the Christmas connection is not quite enough to invalidate Last Christmas. No problem..I have more points! 

 

2: It’s SO P/C! SO Right on message and inclusive. No, it really ISN’T.

 

Look: the ethnic diversity. Look: a leading lady who is actually ill, it seems? Bollox to that.

Look just a BIT closer and you will see that the leading lady (Emilia Clarke) appears to be being bullied by a bullying boss (Michelle Yeoh) in her xmas sweatshop job as a 24/7 Elf. Fine. Except that surely propagates the stereotype that far east = hard work = brutal = nasty. Just sayin’. Oh but the lead actor also looks to be from the orient..so maybe he balances things out, right? No. Just no.

 

 

But if you REALLY want to see quite how base and awful and backward this disgusting little movie trailer is?

EMMA THOMPSON is playing the Mom. Fine, great. I adore Emma, always have, ever since Much Ado About Nothing. A beautiful, cerebral woman who fights for what she believes in. Except here? Em is camping it up, doing a sub sixth form skit eastern European/Russian accent and having been made up to look about twenty years older than her own age. Why?

 

 

Why not hire an actual actress FROM one of those nations? If you can get Chinese folk to play the baddies..is it THAT much of a stretch to get some Russians / Hungarians /poles /whoever-s to play the Mom/Granny? Perhaps it’s an inverted post modern dig at Brexit? Or maybe it’s just deeply patronising and gauche writing/performing, verging on the offensive.

This is not progressive. It’s not even faux ‘WOKE’. Indeed: surely, the very opposite of political correctness? It’s just awful, despite being cloaked in the mawkish gunge of pretending your film is ‘about’ issues (homelessness, ill health, integration, isolation). Yuck.

 

3: The Bridget Jones / Richard Curtis Rom-com Wannabe/ Bloke in a Fluffy Jumper Factor

 

Look! The girl, in the lead? She’s a bit rubbish, right! Keeps falling over! She’s like..got a terrible, low paid job! And lies about her drinking! MIGHT even be TERMINALLY ill (coz that’s HILARIOUS and so feel-good, right?!).

But fear not, ladies. Because a NICE BLOKE Knight in shining armour is coming to your rescue and he’s REALLY fit and whilst he’s loaded, financially, he like, does stuff for charity and the poor. That way, a woman can feel totally validated. By her MAN. Because years of emancipation and struggle for equality obviously don’t count in rom-com world. Women are more than happy to have their career and lifestyle choices dissected by an interfering family because they will be rescued from the chains of mediocrity by a nice chap in a Christmas jumper..at Christmas..in the snow /rain..amidst the LONDON landscape. If that sounds familiar, then it is.

Bridget Jones 1-3 has been there and done that. The fact that those movies were frequently rather dark and distasteful is beside the point; they were funny and thereby, ultimately, charming, embracing and defeating the ironies of double standards in the treatment of women today. Matters were helped by the injection of some Richard Curtis-isms, delivered, flawlessly, by one Mr Hugh John Mungo Grant (MA, Oxon: New College..a place where genius thrives, trust me ;)).

 

See, Hugh was a brand in himself: a one man army in the romcom genre. His ability was unique: to make the banal exciting and vice versa, via unbeatable talent for verbal wordplay; fused to innate comic timing and genuinely compelling, charismatic, old school Hollywood charm. Paired with Richard Curtis’ cutting one liners yet genuine sense of pastoral heart and genius for the ‘what if’ as basis for movies such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill and..Bingo: WINNING formula!

My point is that, unless you do, in fact, have a Richard Curtis/Emma Freud/Hugh Grant dream-team at the helm? Don’t even bother trying to trade off the same imagery and formula. It comes off as dire desperation at  best and creative bankruptcy, verging on the basest theft of commercial good will. Now, if you DO have laughs aplenty AND  a leading man/woman that IS a latter day match for that glory era of the 1990s/ ‘naughties’ (early to mid 2000s) then GREAT!

But LAST CHRISTMAS, based on the trailer alone and associated charisma free vibe? Is about as far as it possible to get from the gold standard of team Hugh/Richard et al..short of simply switching genre altogether and making a horror-rom-com-xmas movie.

Next Christmas: MR JIGSAW IS SANTA! This is one man who is about to learn that Christmas Eve can be TORTURE! But he will find himself and see the error of his slays/sleighs.. (Actually..that kinda works, right? Right? Ok. No. Sorry).

 

4: Sold on a SOUNDTRACK?

The title is taken from the George Michael (RIP) /WHAM catalogue of classics. Cue an instant cash in on the soundtrack and the kind of good will promotion enjoyed by BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and ROCKETMAN. Yes, folks: this is not just a derivative rom-com trailer here. No, you will get a kind of promise of a sort of musical biopic by proxy and all the nostalgia therein.

Watch the movie! Buy the soundtrack! Get the T-Shirt! Notice, notice: they did not go for The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York as their musical talisman / mantra. Funny, that? Well, funnier than this trailer, anyway.

 

LAST WORDS?

Anyway, that’s enough of a rant. I would stress, AGAIN: I am not prejudging the movie and neither am I trolling its personnel, many of whom are decent and distinguished.

But you sometimes have to take a stand on quite how easily an audience is manipulated into accepting rather formulaic marketing as some sort of heartwarming or escapist comedic fun..when it in fact..just maybe..isn’t? But I’m keeping an open mind. REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO WATCHING THIS. Same way i LOVE HARRRRYYYYY POTTTTERRRR films and all their spin-offs, honestly. 😉

Happy Christmas? Time will tell. Best of luck to all involved with the movie. Please do prove me wrong. Bah! Humbug. 

 



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