LAST CHANCE HARVEY
Warned by his boss (Richard Schiff) that he has just one more chance to deliver, jingle writer Harvey Shine goes to London for his daughter Susan's (Liane Balaban) weekend wedding, planning to be back on Monday. But Susan has asked her stepfather, Brian (James Brolin), to walk her down the aisle. When the devastated Harvey misses his return flight, he is fired on the spot. Drowning his sorrows at the airport bar, Harvey strikes up a conversation with Kate (Emma Thompson), a sensitive, 40-something National Statistics employee who works at the airport. Kate, single and attentive more to her smothering mother (Eileen Atkins), than any sort of love life, is intrigued by Harvey - and he by her, their differences notwithstanding.
Review by Louise Keller:
Comedy, drama and romance embrace each other warmly in this richly layered story about two outsiders who discover that today is tomorrow. Dustin Hoffman is Harvey, the disillusioned musician who writes low-brow jingles and Emma Thompson is spinster Kate, who seems to find comfort in disappointment. Hoffman and Thompson together have an intangible screen chemistry that makes us immediately care for them and wonder about the possibilities. Their lives are continents apart, yet together they discover what is important. Joel Hopkins has written a sensitive and observant screenplay that is both funny and moving as we are privy to awkward moments that go horribly wrong as well as those that happily go right, when we least expect them.
Harvey and Kate's first meeting is not what love stories are made of. He is tired, gruff and dismissive after a long trans-Atlantic flight in economy, when she asks him to participate in her airport questionnaire. We have already met Harvey at home in Los Angeles when he is told his job is on the line, and we quickly learn that his lightening trip to London to attend his daughter's wedding is far from a comfortable one. In every way, he is treated as an outcast - even the role of giving away the bride has been relegated to his wife's new husband Brian (James Brolin). Kate has her own problems, including her interfering mother (Eileen Atkins) who rings her constantly on her mobile phone. When Harvey and Kate finally begin a conversation - he hastily gulping Johnny Walker Black Label, she reading a trashy novel with a glass of chardonnay - they are comfortable in each other's company. When Harvey tells Kate how he believed his ex-wife and daughter felt embarrassed of him, his words only reinforce what we have already observed first hand.
It is with great pleasure that we enjoy several days in the company of Harvey and Kate. They do not do anything remarkable: they walk and talk, go shopping, sit by a fountain and throw up issues of logic and nonsense. Last Chance Harvey is a love story for a grown up palette and one that lingers, like a good book or a superb wine that leaves its distinctive taste even when the glass is finished.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Although the plot similarities with Jet Lag are limited to a chance meeting at an airport, this romance for grown ups is a reminder of how grown up romances are so much more interesting than the teenage romantic comedies that come popping out of Hollywood like popsicles from kids' mouths. Satisfyingly complex, rich and layered, Last Chance Harvey offers some marvellously observed, but entertaining truths about humanity in a story that is grounded in recognisable truth.
Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are superb together, their differences sheer joy to watch as the English spinster begins to thaw under the gentle attentions of the older Yank divorced father. But the relationship that begins at an airport bar - in one of the film's many terrific scenes - is wonderfully muted (as well as amusing) and by this time, we've been introduced to both characters and know their difficult personal circumstances. She is trying to manage her ageing mother (lovely performance by Eileen Atkins) and he's trying to cope with losing his job and rejection by his daughter.
Joel Hopkins has written and directed a real treasure of a film, its tone perfectly pitched, its dialogue absolutely right and delivered with performances that will remain in our hearts and minds for a very long time. Thompson's style is perfectly suited to the role of Kate, a no nonsense English woman who appears to be in control but is so used to being disappointed she doesn't want to give it up.
Dustin Hoffman underplays to great effect, and the script allows him to be economical both in manner and in speech. In one of the other great scenes, Harvey offers to meet Kate at the same spot; Hoffman conveys all the importance and meaning of what he feels without saying a word about it. The conversation is about a rendezvous time and place, but the interior conversation is about emotions swelling his occasionally misbehaving heart.
There's much to enjoy in Last Chance Harvey, from the journey of the characters to the humour and the pain that paves that journey; it's his last chance, and not only at his job. So don't miss a chance to see Last Chance Harvey.
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LAST CHANCE HARVEY (PG)
CAST: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Kathy Baker, James Brolin, Eileen Atkins, Richard Schiff
PRODUCER: Nicola Usborne
DIRECTOR: Joel Hopkins
SCRIPT: Joel Hopkins
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John de Borman
EDITOR: Robin Sales
MUSIC: Dickon Hinchliffe
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jon Henson
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 26, 2009