Sunday 18 December 2022

Netflix And Chill: Last Holiday (2006)

The only reason that I hadn't watched Last Holiday (a remake of a 1950 film of the same name) before now is that, well, I just hadn't. But finding out that it was set during the Christmas season gave me the nudge I needed to finally get around to it. I like Queen Latifah as a screen presence, I knew that the plot would be predictable, and somewhat comforting, and I hoped for some gentle humour throughout. 

Latifa plays Georgia Byrd, a hard-working woman who has let life pass her by. She enjoys cooking, does well in a job role under a boss who has kept her underpaid and under-appreciated for far too long. After bumping her head at work, Georgia ends up with a medical diagnosis that spells doom and gloom. She doesn't have long to live. It's a matter of days. Armed with this information, Georgia decides to head off on a dream holiday, spending all of her savings on a gorgeous suite, eating the best food, and just having the best time possible. She doesn't care what anyone thinks, exuding a confidence and honesty that impresses the likes of Chef Didier (Gérard Depardieu) and a holidaying politician (Giancarlo Esposito) while very much NOT impressing Matthew Kragen (Timothy Hutton), a business owner oblivious to the fact that Georgia actually worked in one of his department stores. There's also room in the plot for Sean Williams (LL Cool J), a colleague/potential love interest, and Ms. Burns (Alicia Witt), the young woman "accompanying" Mr. Kragen on his business trip/holiday. I think you can all start planning out how this ends already.

Written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, and directed by Wayne Wang, this is about as formulaic as movies get. The blending of those writers with that director though, just check out the filmographies of them to see the wildly different movies they have separately been involved with, leads to something that is full of wonderful little moments on the way to an ending that has to tie everything up in a neat little bow. There's fun poked at the difference between those seeking to try great cooking and those ordering items from the menu with a multitude of personal requests that undermine the essence of every dish, there's a ridiculous, but amusing, bit of accidental extreme snowboarding, and, despite acting like a high-roller for the little time she has left, Georgia is quick to remind everyone around her to treat all workers with dignity and respect. It's all generally in line with plenty other rom-coms (and, as easy as it is to forget at times, there is a good dash of rom with the com), but it somehow feels a bit quirkier and more spirited than a lot of them.

Queen Latifah (real name Dana Elaine Owens, fact fans) is the main reason for that. As much as I have always enjoyed her acting, she helps herself when being cast in a role that allows her to shine as brightly as possible, and she absolutely shines in this role. Everyone in the supporting cast seems to respond well to her star power, doing some wonderful work in roles that could have easily just been viewed as a quick payday. Hutton is a fun potential villain, Witt gets an enjoyable journey alongside him, and Cool J is a very sweet man viewers will want to see make that proper connection with our lead. Both Depardieu and Esposito enjoy themselves in atypical roles, and there are fun moments for Susan Kellerman (a hotel employee named Gunther), Matt Ross (an awful store manager), and Ranjit Chowdhry (playing the doctor who has to deliver the dire diagnosis to Latifah’s character).

Despite the abundance of snow and cold temperatures, things could have been made a bit more Christmassy, but that’s my only main criticism. The soundtrack could have been a bit better, and the plotting just a bit tighter, but this is a way to spend just under two hours with someone who is absolutely delightful company. And that is enough.


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