Review: Last Chance Harvey
PLOT: Harvey Shine is a sad man. The future of his job is questionable as is his personal life. He finds himself off to England to see his daughter married. This same daughter who treats him like she would any other guest. But chance offers Harvey a most interesting proposition. At the airport, he meets another sad individual named Kate Walker. As the two end up spending time together, they realize that they may yet have a chance to find something more out of life.
Simplicity is sometimes the most interesting way to tell a story. When a sad and lonely man find a sad and lonely woman, love isn’t always going to blossom and grow, but sometimes… just sometimes, they may find a connection or a hand to hold. While the idea of Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman as a couple in a romantic movie seems very odd, it is exactly the reason why Last Chance Harvey works as well as it does. This unusual combination of quirk and charm really feels somehow legitimate and awkwardly wonderful. You sort of wonder why Joel Hopkins would even think of building a middle aged love story around the two, but it is instantly clear that it works. And somehow, just as Hoffman’s Harvey Shine seems to be winning Thompson’s Kate Walker over, he soon wins over the audience. What a beautiful relationship these two bring to the silver screen.
When we first meet Harvey Shine, he is having issues with his job where he writes jingles for commercials. It seems that his age is starting to play against him. As he is about to leave for a trip to England to see his daughter get married, his boss tells him to stay awhile… we all know that is a bad sign. Once he arrives at the hotel, he finds that his ex-wife and her husband rented a house for pretty much everyone invited to the wedding, except of course the father of the bride. This is a sad man, who happened to pass a woman working at the airport, and we find this woman to be in a very sad place as well. Kate Walker is a women who has yet to find love and happiness, about the only phone calls she receives are from her mother Maggie (Eileen Atkins). Even though they meet for only a brief moment, it seems that they are destined to possibly… maybe… But this doesn’t feel as sappy and rom-com as it sounds. When they finally do begin to speak to each other, you can wholly understand why Emma and Dustin shine together.
It is a rare thing to see, this kind of middle-aged romance that isn’t a joke or some overly sentimental cry fest. The humor and the warmth these two bring is so inviting. Really, not a lot happens here, but what does happen is louder than words. They meet, they go to a wedding reception and they fall in love, or maybe begin the process of falling in love. Again, the simplicity is just refreshing and it is brought to life by the two actors and a sweet script also written by director Hopkins. While it isn’t necessarily a perfect film, as some of the minor characters were merely there to help tell the main story, it still works. Although, I really would have liked to have had more insight into what happened with Shine and his daughter Susan (Liane Balaban). I really liked Ms. Balaban’s performance but I wanted to know more as to why their relationship felt so empty. I realize it was Shine and Walker’s story, but I think Susan’s role was a big part of that relationship. This is a short film, running just under ninety-nine minutes so I guess it just wouldn’t fit?
I was however impressed with Joel Hopkins and his handling of a middle aged romance, he does a good job directing his actors. Although visually, this feels a tad bit average. You’ll find nothing terribly brilliant about the look of the film, but thankfully the actors really make up for that as does the script. In this day and age when romantic films feel invariably formulaic, LAST CHANCE HARVEY is a nice change of pace. The fact that the characters are mature and have already settled into their lives seems to make it all the more touching. Again, I have to say that both Thompson and Hoffman are so very engaging that you believe every moment. It was also a treat to see the wonderful to see Bronagh Gallagher as Kate’s employee and best bud, she is a terrific actress and she is charming here.
My rating 7.5/10 -- JimmyO
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