[Editor’s note: The following post contains extensive spoilers for “Last Christmas,” including its twist ending.]
Back in August, when Universal released the first trailer for Paul Feig’s rom-com “Last Christmas,” internet sleuths were quick to read between the lines and come to a conclusion much to the filmmakers chagrin: Henry Golding’s holiday knight-in-shining armor to Emilia Clarke’s disillusioned Christmas-store elf is actually a ghost.
The top YouTube comment on Universal’s trailer gives reasons why: Tom (Golding) wears the same exact outfit throughout, while Kate (Clarke) is shown in an array of different clothes. He’s also the only person interacting with Kate in the trailer.
It’s impressive detective work, but not exactly accurate. In the film, Tom is indeed dead and an apparition visible only to Kate. It turns out the biggest spoiler, also pointed out by that same commenter, comes from the George Michael song on which the film is based and accompanies the trailer: “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart” — Tom literally gave Kate his heart as an organ donor.
In a recent interview with Collider, Feig expressed frustration with the choices made by Universal’s marketing team for the trailer and the media for reporting on the pre-release speculation.
“I wasn’t really frustrated that people were trying to guess it. What I was very frustrated with was that the media was just picking up on that and then putting out these theories, some of which were true, but printing them like spoilers, and I just had never seen that happen to another movie before where people, even though they didn’t know if it was that they were just actively trying to spoil something, you know what I mean?” Feig said. “It’s not like when ‘Knives Out’ came out, people were like going, “I bet so and so was the murderer.” So I didn’t quite understand why that was happening to a romantic comedy (laughs), so I found it very frustrating to be perfectly honest.”
i just watched last christmas and i was already expecting that twist but i still cried lol
— sydney 🍒 @ semi-hiatus (@chrryhearts) February 15, 2020
Feig suspects including the fact of Kate’s illness in the trailer helped people connect the dots. If it was up to him, he said he wouldn’t have revealed that plot point.
But he doesn’t blame the marketing team. Trailer testing revealed that audiences were more responsive to the advertising when they knew Kate was sick; Feig discussed at length in the interview the value he finds in test screenings.
“I’ve had movies where I’ve been like, ‘Don’t give that away.’ Things that I think would drive people to see the movie, I sometimes won’t let into the trailer, and so I’ve got this movie that everything’s protected on, but not enough people go to see it. That’s that weird trade-off you have to do as a commercial filmmaker,” he said. “But it’s frustrating. Your heart sometimes sinks when you start to see how they want to market something, but I’ve been very lucky, because Universal’s great, and when I worked with Lionsgate they were great, Fox was great. I’ve had some really good campaigns. Making the movie is almost easy. The marketing is like the hardest thing in the world to get right because you just have to walk an absolute tightrope.”
The twist was among the parts of the film that divided critics; it has a 50 on Metacritic. Feig said that was one of the things that attracted him to the Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings-penned script.