Last Chance Harvey
- Dustin Hoffman as Harvey Shine
- Emma Thompson as Kate Walker
- Eileen Atkins as Maggie Walker
- James Brolin as Brian
- Kathy Baker as Jean
An undemanding but still mostly successful and at times moving romantic drama, Last Chance Harvey gets by on the lovely rapport shared between stars Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson who breathe a layer of maturity and emotion to the piece.
Harvey Shine is a jingle writer who has seen better days. Lately, his job has become numbing but he still slaves away as it is his way of income. Yet his output of late has caused his employment to hang by a thread and his boss warns him that he has only once chance left to prove himself. Travelling to London for the wedding of his daughter, Harvey feels further alienated when he finds out his daughter wants her stepfather to give her away. Granted, Harvey’s relationship with his daughter has been strained since his separation from her mother, but he still feels devastated by this information. Leaving the ceremony to avoid any further embarrassment, he rushes to the airport to catch a plane home. He misses the flight home and is subsequently informed that he has been fired from his job. He meets airport worker Kate while drowning his sorrows in the bar. She is a woman who has all but given up on love, and is unwilling to try it again. Kate pours her energies into supporting her elderly mother, who is paranoid and always pestering Kate over why she doesn’t have a man in her life. Bonding over their respective lives and what they want out of it, Harvey and Kate develop a mutual and unexpected attraction that they believed wouldn’t touch them at this time and can promise them another chance at companionship.
Joel Hopkins does a decent job directing, though he doesn’t quite have a real style or calling card to stamp his name. It’s in his screenplay that warmth and pathos come, despite the sidestep into mawkish territory on occasion. Often, Last Chance Harvey can lurch between humour and comedy without much of a pay off, which could have been rectified with more substance. And while that stuck out at times, there was a level of sincerity and honesty to the screenplay that compensated for the flaws. I think my biggest niggle with the film was that it could have had a lot more going for it story wise. I mean, I did enjoy the wistful and soul-searching parts of the friendship that blossomed into romance but I felt there should have been a little bit more drama to buttress things. I’m a guy who enjoys gentle and autumnal like the best of them, and I really found myself enjoying quite a bit of the chemistry between the great actors present. Just a tad more life and a bit of something else sprinkled on would have made the film really excellent. As it stands, Last Chance Harvey loses some points for flagging interest yet gains just as many by finding pathos in the ideas of two middle-aged people discovering a love they thought had left them long ago. It’s refreshing to see a movie deal with attraction between people in middle age, most romances seem to favour the youth formula. The depth of the film comes from the fact that these two characters are older and wiser, but still relatable and looking for something more. When the humour and drama hit, they hit very well and raise Last Chance Harvey to a better level that while still flawed, has its heart in the right place. The movie is the equivalent of an old blanket, it has its wrinkles and though this is the case, you find it reassuring and stirring.
Last Chance Harvey’s biggest impact comes courtesy of two stunning performances from Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. As the worn out and awkward man who feels a deep void of loneliness, Dustin Hoffman is quietly nuanced and touching, while bringing some bumbling humour to it too. Emma Thompson gorgeously plays the woman who makes an impact on him unexpectedly, with a natural and lovingly observed sense of cautious longing and warmth. It’s pleasing to see them act opposite each other and bring out the respective best each has. These two professionals share a beautifully unaffected chemistry that overcomes any clichés the script offers up, and succeed at saying more with just a glance or a smile than most actors can with tons of dialogue. Eileen Atkins offers up some really good humour as the dotty mother, convinced that something fishy is going on around her when it’s actually quite the opposite. While Atkins has a good time in the supporting role, James Brolin and Kathy Baker are handed one-note characters who don’t particularly contribute to the story is any real way.
It is not a film that has much in the way of fresh ideas or a clear-cut idea of where it’s going which is often too it’s detriment. But the moving and natural work from the main actors and a sometimes bittersweet look at people discovering possible love in middle age, Last Chance Harvey is gentle and has clout that makes it a sweet and heartfelt ride. See it for Hoffman and Thompson.