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Last Chance Harvey /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Kathy Baker, James Brolin, Eileen Atkins
Directed by: Joel Hopkins
Produced by: Tim Perell, Nicola Usborne
Written by: Joel Hopkins
Distributor: Overture Films

As seen at AFI Fest 2008:


     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.


     Thankfully, 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.


     The movie’s 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.


-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 12.24.2008

Screened on: 11.8.2008 at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, CA.


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