Last Chance Harvey
Review by Jack Foley
DUSTIN Hoffman and Emma Thompson make a likeable couple in Joel Hopkins’ Last Chance Harvey, a flawed but winning romantic comedy drama that also provides a similarly appealing showcase for London.
Hoffman plays Harvey Shine, a work obsessed jingles composer who comes to London for his estranged daughter’s wedding even though his life is falling apart around him, while Thompson is Emma, a put-upon spinster whose attempts to find happiness are continually thwarted by her demanding mother (Eileen Atkins).
The two eventually meet in an airport bar and end up spending the rest of the day together, discussing their problems and developing an unlikely affection for each other in the process.
For Harvey in particular, this involves an extended stint at his daughter’s wedding that offers the possibility of putting his prorities back in context.
Hopkins’ film, while owing several similarities to the work of Richard Curtis, is a thoughtful, intelligent and frequently poignant middle-aged romantic drama that plays to the strengths of its talented leads.
Hoffman, in particular, expertly turns his character into a loveable loser who is genuinely worth rooting for, while Thompson nicely balances steely resolve with quiet vulnerability.
There won’t be a dry eye in the house on several occasions, not least when Harvey delivers an impassioned father’s speech at his daughter’s reception.
Hopkins therefore deserves a lot of credit for delivering a movie that unashamedly clings to traditional values and offers two brilliant but older actors the chance to take centre-stage. His choice of location is also effective.
The minor criticisms that do exist concern structure and comparison but aren’t large enough to detract from the overall enjoyment factor.
Love Actually fans are certain to raise an eyebrow as Thompson is once again reduced to quietly composing herself after a moment of heartbreak, while the use of an airport and a time-consuming relative also ring familiar.
Structurally, meanwhile, the film peaks a little too soon emotionally, with nothing to rival the intensity and raw emotion of Hoffman’s wedding speech. It remains one of the standout scenes of the year in itself, but deprives the film of a grandstanding emotional climax thereafter.
With that in mind, however, Last Chance Harvey is still to be recommended for the brilliance of those central performances, the subtle feel-good factor it leaves you with afterwards and a welcome return from Hopkins, whose previous film was the critically-acclaimed Jump Tomorrow way back in 2001.
Running time: 92mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 2, 2009
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Joel Hopkins interview
- Dustin Hoffman interview
- Last Chance Harvey photo gallery