Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Last Chance Harvey (2009)

LAST CHANCE HARVEY is a very enjoyable romantic character study starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson.

Hoffman plays Harvey, a composer of commercial "jingles" who travels to London for his daughter's wedding. Harvey is the odd man out at the ceremony, where the bride's stepfather (James Brolin) has been asked to give her away.

Harvey happens to meet Kate (Thompson), who works at Heathrow Airport. While Harvey and Kate each live somewhat isolated lives and frequently seem to be confronted with socially awkward moments, the two of them hit it off and feel comfortable chatting. Harvey's a bit of a bull in a china shop, but he breaks through Kate's defensive barriers and before you know it, they're walking through the streets of London together, talking about their lives like old friends.

Eileen Atkins plays Thompson's mother. Kathy Baker and Liane Balaban are Harvey's ex-wife and daughter. Richard Schiff (THE WEST WING) plays Harvey's erstwhile employer.

The film's slight plot works because the lead actors -- especially Thompson -- are completely real and believable. The viewer always feels that the story could be true. This feeling of realism is accentuated by the excellent use of London locations. Seeing the familiar sights along the Thames and elsewhere is enough to make anyone who loves the city "homesick" to go back.

(Speaking of realism, I did wonder how the unemployed Harvey could afford to take taxis all over London. Maybe it would have been too difficult filming him using the Underground...)

Harvey is confronted with a crisis near the end of the film which is much too cliched, but Thompson redeems this development with a reunion scene which is beautiful. She is the master of the touching romantic crying scene (see SENSE AND SENSIBILITY...).

Leonard Maltin: "With equal doses of charm and intelligence, LAST CHANCE HARVEY sets up a situation that’s not so far-fetched we can’t go along for the ride. Writer-director Joel Hopkins maintains a light touch and shoots London with an eye toward appealing, even romantic, locations we don’t often see on film. Hoffman has said that he and his costar made substantial contributions to the script, reflecting their own sensibilities. If so, bully for them. LAST CHANCE HARVEY tells a love story about two mature people without becoming overly coy or cute. It’s a winning formula called entertainment. "

LAST CHANCE HARVEY was written and directed by Joel Hopkins. It runs 92 minutes.

Parental advisory: The movie is rated PG-13 for brief strong language. For the most part this is a family-friendly film.

This film has been released on DVD. The DVD release includes both widescreen and fullscreen versions in the same set. The trailer and a commentary by the director and two lead actors are among the extras. DVDs purchased at Target include an exclusive 30-minute featurette about location filming in London.


Blogger Missy said...

I recently watched this. I enjoyed it, but found the beginning almost depressing! I got it through Netflix and didn't have time to watch the extras, were they any good?

I read somewhere that Hoffman and Thompson did more than make "substantial contributions." I don't remember where, but I read they ad-libbed most of their dialogue in the scenes with just the two of them. Not a ringing endorsement of the screenwriter!


8:37 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

The beginning definitely captures the awful feelings of not fitting in, doesn't it? Since I knew the story would be turning around soon that made it easier for me to deal with (grin).

I'll be curious to hear what Hoffman and Thompson say about their "script" contributions when I listen to the commentary. Haven't watched the extras yet -- maybe later today.

Best wishes,

9:41 AM  

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