Last Chance Harvey

2009-10-01 16:34
 
Last Chance Harvey

What it's about:

Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) is an American jingle-writer and small-time musician whose life is slowly falling apart. He heads to London for his estranged daughter's wedding, to face his ex-wife, her new husband and the potential of losing his job if he does not make it back to the US in time. While drowning his sorrows at a bar, he meets Kate (Emma Thompson), a middle-aged woman who spends her days fielding calls from her neurotic mother (Eileen Atkins). Equally disillusioned with life, she and Harvey share stories and connect over the span of one day spent in London.

What we thought:

Unlike most romantic comedies, Last Chance Harvey does not focus on fresh-faced twenty-somethings daunted by the onset of "middle age" without a life partner. This pair have been in love, fallen out of it, and amassed a fair amount of emotional baggage after experiencing some of life's trials.

Hoffman portrays Harvey with layers of subtlety and sensitivity imbued in his character. He is slightly arrogant and very witty, but beneath that veneer lurks a sensitive man who is hoping to awaken emotionally and reconnect with his family. At least that's why he seems to semi-stalk Kate through the first fifteen minutes of the film.

Emma Thompson, while sweet and shy, comes across as one-dimensional and she fails to engender the same level of sympathy as Hoffman does. Her character's appeal is in her desperate need to be romanced despite the realisation that, after over twenty years of experience, the male species has been a letdown. Surprisingly, the pair's shared insecurity and loneliness is exactly what renders them sincere and charming.

While the theme seems similar to that of Richard Linklater's 2005 indie classic Before Sunset and its 2004 follow-up Before Sunrise, the characters are free of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke's youthful idealism and intrigue with discovering the external world. The conversation that steers Kate and Harvey's relationship does not delve into the arts or religion, but stays focused on exploring one another's life experiences and reflecting on how they have shaped the problems they experience.  By the time Kate convinces Harvey to attend his daughter's wedding reception and give a toast – an honour which the bride had intended for her step-father – it comes as no surprise.

Last Chance Harvey is a brief but slow-paced film with no grand romance, no tangible tension and no major tragedy. It's refreshing to watch a romantic comedy which steers clear of clichés and tired gimmicks and allows the characters to connect through genuine conversation. It's a comfortable, undemanding film with a clear message: there is life after divorce and hope for a single woman approaching 50.


Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson resuscitate the romantic comedy, playing two lost souls who connect over the course of one day.

Morgan 2009/10/03 10:02 PM
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A romcom for adults about how adults fall in love - over kind, funny conversation. While the new Apatow-style romcoms can be fun at times, it's been a while since there's been a thinking comedy for grown-ups. Teenagers may not get it, mom and dad will.
Peter 2009/10/06 9:56 AM
Teenagers may not get it, mom and dad will.
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