Last Chance Harvey

Last Chance Harvey
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Liana Balaban, Kathy Baker, James Brolin, Eileen Atkins
Director: Joel Hopkins
Screenplay: Joel Hopkins
Genre: Drama/Romance
Rated: PG Mild Coarse Language
Running Time: 92 Minutes

It's About First Loves, Last Chances And Everything In Between.

Academy Award® winners Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man) and Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility) reunite in Last Chance Harvey, a heartfelt romance that celebrates new beginnings - at any age. New Yorker Harvey Shine (Hoffman) is on the verge of losing his dead-end job as a jingle writer. Warned by his boss that he has just one more chance to deliver, Harvey goes to London for a weekend to attend his daughter's wedding but promises to be back on Monday morning to make an important meeting - or else. Harvey arrives in London only to learn his daughter has chosen to have her stepfather (James Brolin) walk her down the aisle. Drowning his sorrows at the airport bar, Harvey strikes up a conversation with a 40-something employee of the Office of National Statistics. Kate (Thompson), whose life is limited to work, the occasional humiliating blind date and endless phone calls from her smothering mother, is touched by Harvey, who finds himself energised by her intelligence and compassion. The growing connection between the pair inspires both as they unexpectedly transform one another's lives.

My Verdict:
Dustin Hoffman is Harvey Shine, a washed-up American jingle writer struggling to compete in the modern world. His boss has given him one last shot at delivering the goods just as he departs for a weekend in London where his daughter is getting married. Emma Thompson is Kate Walker, a woman approaching middle age, who has given up on a meaningful relationship with a man. She works in a mundane job gathering statistics at the airport, frustratingly supports her clingy mother and endures attempts from her well-meaning friends to find her a companion. Harvey and Kate meet by chance more than once and from there, a relationship develops over the weekend despite the obvious difficulties each identifies.

Last Chance Harvey is a subtle and endearing movie even though it doesn't offer anything new. The two main characters are basically two ordinary people who have all but given up on a deep and meaningful relationship and it is through Hoffman and Thompson that they thankfully become more than average. Hoffman has a definite charm that comes from his vast experience - restraining his character where just a look and a gentle smile are enough. Thompson too uses her skills to let Kate be vulnerable, sad, lonely and frustrated yet allowing just a hint of hope that there really could be more. Both Hoffman and Thompson effortlessly guide their characters with adept skill and are charmingly delightful and ultimately likeable.

Set in London, much of the time is spent with Harvey and Kate in conversation as Kate convinces Harvey to return to his daughters wedding reception after a brief appearance despite his desire to return home to salvage his job, giving the two the opportunity to discover each other amongst some lesser-known landmarks.

Subplots include the relationship between Harvey and his daughter, Susan (Liana Balaban) and another involving Kate's mother (Eileen Atkins) and her growing suspicion about her Polish neighbour which is almost embarrassingly weak and possibly only included to justify her state of mind.

Last Chance Harvey is classified as a romantic comedy but it's not a visual gag-fest - the humour is sometimes wry but safe and the romance is calmly restrained. Slowly but steadily heading towards a fairly predictable conclusion, the high calibre of Hoffman and Thompson manage to keep the movie afloat in what could otherwise have been a sinking ship. Not a mind-bending or over-stimulating production, there are enough rewarding moments to make this pleasant, easy-going and at times, a simple joy at watching two veterans deliver the goods.

Rating : *** ˝

Christina Bruce