Last Chance Harvey (2008)
Directed by Joel Hopkins
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson
Last Chance Harvey has something a lot of romantic films do not have: sincerity. It’s a relief to watch a film about a man and a woman who fall in love who aren’t in their 20’s or 30’s. This allows for a more truthful story.
Harvey (Hoffman) is a failed jazz pianist who has settled to writing jingles for TV commercials. He was good at it but new technology has pushed Harvey aside. His boss tells him that unless he lands the current deal, they don’t need his aging talent around anymore. On this note, he flies to London to attend his daughter’s wedding where he is greeted as an outsider because of his divorce. On top of not being invited to stay at a house with the rest of the family during the celebration, his daughter informs him that her stepfather is going to walk her down the aisle and give her away. Talk about blow after blow to poor Harvey, who seems like a nice enough guy but just hasn’t had much luck in his life.
Then there’s Kate (Thompson) who is an airport interviewer for a British agency. Her father left her and her mother with his secretary. Her mother constantly checks up with Kate and tries to help her find a boyfriend. She even sets Kate up with a blind date, which goes horribly but the result is exactly what Kate expected. She’s never had luck in her love life and she has grown immune to disappointment.
So as both of them release their stress at the airport pub, they spark up a conversation, half out of pity and half out of patheticness. Harvey speaks with desperation for sympathy and Kate responds with kindness. When they part on their own ways, Harvey follows Kate like a puppy dog, beginning their romantic adventure.
Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson do a spectacular job showing their affection towards one another, but through their subtle gestures and short conversations rather than spilling out their tormented souls. There are a few cliches Last Chance Harvey displays, one being the montage of Kate trying on dresses. But for the most part, Last Chance Harvey was a sweet and pleasant romantic drama. You simply cannot go too awry with these two lead actors.
Overall, the characters are exceptionally written and executed by director/writer Joel Hopkins, Hoffman, and Thompson. The main story arc is traditional enough to appeal to a large audience. The subplots, though, are a bit displaced and takes away from the authenticity of the characters in beautiful London. Last Chance Harvey has no gimmicks nor does it manipulate the audience in any way. It’s simply a story about two individuals who have lived a large portion of their lives without love. But together, they want to give it one more chance.