At the time of year when we’re all re-watching the same festive classics, we want to shine a spotlight on a perfect yet underrated Christmas movie: Last Holiday.
Sure, it doesn’t sound that festive but the concept of death and Christmas cheer go quite naturally hand-in-hand and it’s a strong combo when it comes to the pop culture offerings we go to at Christmas. Liam Neeson’s wife dying at Christmas in Love, Actually, as he navigates his first Christmas alone
by sleeping with Claudia Schiffer. The presence of the old man in The Holiday, missing his long-time love and long-dead friends. The cancer diagnosis that hangs over The Family Stone. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present & Future that wreak havoc in A Christmas Story.
When you are young, Christmas is a time of joy, presents and holidays that you look forward to every year. But as you get older, it becomes a marker of the year that, yes, still signifies all those things but also points out that time is fleeting, you are ageing, and death comes for us all, so we must lean into the time we’ve got.
(Hallmark, hire me!)
No movie does this better than Last Holiday, a poignant delight of a Christmas movie starring Queen Latifah as a sensible, single woman in her late 30s who blows up her carefully disciplined life when she is given a terminal diagnosis and three weeks to live – making this Christmas her last.
Yes, it’s as cliché a plot as it gets but as one review said, it’s a movie that ‘plays like a hug’ and the sheer force of Queen Latifah’s warmth and charisma turns this into a festive must-watch. There are so few decent Christmas movies that we are always having to re-watch the same ones (I have seen Love, Actually 25 times), and in all the top 10 lists, I never see this movie get the love it deserves.
The Joys Of Last Holiday
Festive or fun clichés that this movie absolutely nails
– A fed-up character telling their terrible boss they quit
– A makeover montage
– Vision boards!
– A charming workplace crush played by LL Cool J, for crying out loud
– A Christmas Grinch slash retail manager who gets what’s coming to him
– Selfish rich guy who learns the meaning of Christmas
– WOMEN SUPPORTING WOMEN
– Europe at Christmas
– Inspirational Church scene
– Cooking montages
– A leading lady who learns to live well, and finally love herself
Theme 1: Why We Shouldn’t Wait To Be Given A Reason To Celebrate
‘You wait and you wait for something big to happen, and then you find out you’re going to die.’
The art of celebrating here and now, rather than saving our best for a rainy day is a topic we have long been passionate about and it’s the central theme of this movie. Think the blank-cheque mentality of Kevin in Home Alone 2, ordering cheese pizzas in limos or another scoop of ice cream in bed, but instead it’s a late-thirties women telling her bad boss to f—k off, cashing in her savings and finally living out her ‘Possibilities’ dream journal.
Theme 2: Fall In Love With Your Own Life (Rather Than Waiting For A Man)
I don’t want to be disingenuous, because her crush on Sean/LL Cool J is deeply warranted (just look at him) and a lovely part of the movie BUT the real love story here is Georgia (Queen Latifah) finally falling in love with her own self and her own life.
‘The real love story here is Georgia (Queen Latifah) finally falling in love with her own self and her own life.’
It’s a refreshing change from the ‘I’m single and a man will fix me’ message that plagues 90% of Christmas movies, in that the real love story here doesn’t require a plus-one for a happy ending. There are very few Christmas movies I would recommend to you if you are single or heartbroken this year, but this is one of them.
Theme 3: Food Is The Meaning Of Christmas (And Life)
Last Holiday also leans into the magic of food as a tool of love AND a tool of festive cheer and, frankly, not enough movies do this. Food is the love language of Christmas but can you name me a single good meal in Love, Actually? Even in The Holiday when Cameron Diaz indulges in a supermarket blow-out of chocolate and wine, it’s a sign that she’s losing her mind, rather than enjoying her life.
One of the most poignant moments of the film is post-diagnosis, when Georgia is flicking through all the photos of delicious meals she’s made for other people – while only ever eating Lean Cuisine herself – and saying, ‘I should’ve ate that. I should have ate all of that.’ This is a familiar tune for many women who only allow themselves to enjoy pleasurable parts of life – food, sex, etc – when something bad has happened, and it’s an important reminder that we should be enjoying these aspects in our daily life, rather than literally waiting until we get handed a death sentence to eat something with cream in it.
You can tell that Georgia is finally seeing her worth when she starts feeding herself food she actually wants to eat, rather than living on a perpetual diet. It’s discussed at length in the movie that butter is the meaning of life and isn’t that a better (and frankly more achievable) message than ‘if you’re single at Christmas, you might as well give up,’ Aka settle for Jack Black even though he yells at his girlfriend about flutes/stay with your husband even though he cheats/marry Tom Hanks even though you’ve only met him once on top of the Empire State Building’. True love may elude you on December 25 but everyone can get butter!
(Cost of living crisis and lactose intolerance notwithstanding).
Basically, if you want a Christmas movie that helps you remember what’s important, that a good life is within your grasp and that money & marriage aren’t the top things to be striving for, this is the one for you. It is a hug in in a movie. Just don’t go in hungry.
Last Holiday is on Netflix now.