As seen at AFI
It’s a little
pathetic that we, the movie-going masses, have accepted the
notion that certain genres are conducive to mediocre films. The
most pigeonholed among said genres (except for perhaps slasher-horror)
is romantic-comedy, which has been written off as a blanket for
formulaic studio fodder targeted exclusively at menopausal women
and teary-eyed teenage girls.
there are movies like Last Chance Harvey to remind us
that all types of stories can be made into good movies so long
as the right elements are at work. The film, no doubt a
romantic-comedy if you’ve ever seen one, carries broad appeal
that will reach far beyond its genre’s token audience if allowed
the chance. It’s smartly written and likably performed. In fact,
if all romantic-comedies were like it, men would have no problem
enduring them on date-night.
The movie stars
Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, both at the tops of their
respective games playing characters they could easily be in real
life. He’s Harvey Shine, a washed-up TV jingle composer who hits
a mid-life-crisis point when he is fired by telephone while in
London at his daughter’s (Liane Balaban) wedding, only to then
have his daughter tell him she’d prefer to have her step-father
(James Brolin) give her away. Running from his distant family
and trying to save his job, Harvey heads for Heathrow to catch a
flight back to the States but doesn’t make it in time. Drowning
his sorrows at the airport bar, he meets Kate (Thompson), an
airline employee who he instantly forges a bond with when she
snidely remarks on his drink-order. The pair’s chance encounter
turns into an entire day spent together, providing Harvey a new
outlook on his life and, as the movie’s title indicates, second
chances at love and—as Kay insists as Harvey tells her more
about the wedding—making things right with his daughter.
plot isn’t original, but the situations—essentially a long
string of encounters and conversations between Harvey and
Kate—are affably written and briskly paced by impressive
first-time writer/director Joel Hopkins. Working skillfully in
unobtrusive Hollywood Style, Hopkins sets the stage for Hoffman
and Thompson to deliver. And indeed, the actors’ chemistry feels
natural and the dynamic between their two characters authentic.
In fact, Last Chance Harvey’s primary strength is that it
showcases two terrific performers in relaxed form, casually
walking and talking with every bit as much emotional nuance as
seen in their most acclaimed work but none of the frill. In this
sense, Last Chance Harvey works in much the same way
Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise did, even though the
material is more conventional and the dialogue isn’t as complex.
While it may
not rock anyone’s world, Last Chance Harvey offers an
enjoyable, agreeable time at the movies for couples,
particularly those who are older and like well-made takes on
simple stories. For those seeking a Christmas confection with
none of the aftertaste of the latest bloated studio production,
this lighthearted opportunity to spend time with two great
screen-presences is the perfect choice.
11.8.2008 at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, CA.
Last Chance Harvey is rated PG-13 and
runs 99 minutes.
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