Last Chance Harvey (2008)


Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, London, England… attractions enough.  Can anyone ask for more?

… Well, yes…  how about a good plot.

The relatively new director/writer Joel Hopkins must have great confidence in his actors unleashing their charisma in lieu of a substantial plot… well, he’s lucky.  They do.  Despite a slow start, an uneventful and banal storyline reminiscence of past movies, I’ve enjoyed it, mainly because of the actors.  Just watching Hoffman and Thompson strike it up can lighten your day.  Their performance is worth the ticket, especially Hoffman.  Just watching his toast to the bride in the wedding of his daughter is worth the 92 minutes you sit in the theatre.

For their performance, both are nominees in their respective best acting category for a comedy or musical at the recent Golden Globe Awards.

Weddings are popular in recent movies.  Maybe because a wedding is the most sensitive occasion where families, past and present, have to come together, tempted to open old wounds, but also given the chance to mend relationships, or to simply love those for whom you haven’t got time in your life. A hotbed for drama to ensue.

Hoffman here plays Harvey, a divorced jingle writer facing a post mid-life crisis.  Not only is he hanging in a dead-end job, his life is one stale and stagnant bore.   The movie begins as he flies to London England for his daughter’s wedding. The excitement is soon doused by his realizing that the wedding ceremonies have all been planned without him. An embarrassment to his ex-wife Jean (Kathy Baker, The Jane Austen Book Club, 2007) and even to his daughter Susan (the fresh Canadian Liane Balaban, Definitely Maybe, 2008 ), Harvey nevertheless grasps the most critical moment to express his heart-felt endearment for his daughter at the reception.

Other than that self-assertion, and the father-daughter dance which is made possible only because his son-in-law is gracious enough to initiate, Harvey is totally slighted.  While drenched in self-pity, he meets Kate (Thompson).  She too is beginning to, (or has she already?), give up the chance of falling in love.   Kate is self-sufficient though, and probably feels she could fare better on her own, especially without her mother (Eileen Atkins, Evening, 2007) calling her every hour.  But of course, the rest of the story is predictable;  yet you still want to cherish the two great actors hitting it off, to witness Harvey winning Kate over.

Last Chance Harvey is like a stroll in the park.  It’s simple, light, relaxing.  I mean for both the viewers and the actors.  It sure looks like this is one easy job that the two of them can do even in their sleep.

But of course, for me as a viewer, I’d like to see more depth, more characterization, more twists and turns, more laughs.

I suppose it’s alright if you don’t mind coming out of a restaurant half-full… and you did enjoy the dessert.

~ ~ ½ Ripples