By Morgan Roberts
With all of the Scrooges out there bashing “Last Christmas” (2019), it seems that it is important to remind people that feel good movies are something we all need.
The flack “Last Christmas” is receiving is from Tarantino/Scorsese/Kubrick Film Bros (my assessment of the situation), who think that every movie needs to be riddled with piousness, plot points that make no sense, and toxic masculinity. So, when “Last Christmas” (2019) hit theaters, it certainly did not please this crowd.
“Last Christmas” stars Emilia Clarke as a struggling singer who works in a Christmas shop not dealing with her near-death experience. She meets the ever-so-charming Henry Golding as a mysterious man who helps her re-evaluate her life. There is some stuff about the ridiculousness of Brexit, there is a Patti LuPone cameo, and Michelle Yeoh just being awesome at all times. Is it a perfect movie? No. But does Paul Feig work tremendously hard to give us a movie to feel good about ourselves and give us the story of the complexity of surviving a nearly fatal illness and learning to live life to the fullest? Absolutely.
“Feel good movies are not about revolutionizing film. They are about making the cinema experience fun again. They are about escapism. About feeling *good* which we don’t get to feel most of the time thanks to the universe.”
With all of the negative reviews, it got me thinking about how hard critics – and audiences – bash feel good movies. Just last year, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (2018) was also belittled by critics. But why? “Mamma Mia!” (2008) was not a highbrow, existential crisis ridden film, but it was a whole lot of fun to listen to Meryl Streep cover some Abba songs. When the sequel came out, it was once again a ride about joy and Abba and it highlighted how much we need a Donna and the Dynamos movie. It was a movie about freedom, finding yourself, and again, the sheer joy that comes from singing Abba songs. I cannot emphasize that enough.
Trust me, I get it. Feel good movies are not intellectual, they are not provocative, they are not daring, but there is an authenticity to the escapism it provides. It reminds the audience that fun, lightheartedness, and enjoyment are not bad things. I always think back to the line in “Lady Bird” (2017) when the main character Lady Bird has a fight with her boyfriend. She claims that not everything that is bad has to be about war. The same goes for good movies. They do not have to be crowning achievements in acting or directing or cinematography to be good, enjoyable movies. They just have to give you enough space to feel okay for a bit. And we need to allow for those movies to exist.
And not to make this about feminism, but it truly is a misogynistic phenomenon. Look at how men can have “John Wick” (2014) and “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2014) and cars with explosion movies and what ever CGI mess Michael Bay wants to make. They call it escapism. The explosions are cool. They are not there for the acting. That is fine and dandy. If you want to spend your money on “Battle Los Angeles” (2011), then more power to you.
“Feel good movies are not intellectual, they are not provocative, they are not daring, but there is an authenticity to the escapism it provides. It reminds the audience that fun, lightheartedness, and enjoyment are not bad things”
But because cinema and film criticism are controlled by men, when there are feel good movies that a feminine/female-leaning audience may enjoy, they are panned by critics before hitting theaters. Joe Leydon of Variety called “Bridesmaids” (2011) “a sluggish, charmless misfire.” Glenn Kenny of The New York Times wrote about “Set It Up” (2018) stating, “The expectation that a female-written, female-directed effort would yield something refreshingly different is scotched within the first few minutes.” The kindest thing Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian said about “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” was “something in the sheer relentless silliness and uncompromising ridiculousness of this, combined with a new flavor of self-aware comedy, made me smile in spite of myself.” How charming.
Feel good movies are not about revolutionizing film. They are about making the cinema experience fun again. They are about escapism. About feeling *good* which we don’t get to feel most of the time thanks to the universe. No more “bah-humbugs.” It is time to let ourselves enjoy the warmth and love from a feel good movie.