Last Chance Harvey

| January 20, 2009

Seasoned actors have a knack for finding great movies, for finding real characters whom people will care about, even if the genre is one audiences are a little too familiar with.
Last Chance Harvey could’ve turned into a dull, cliche romantic comedy, but thanks to top-notch acting and strong writing, it is an inspiring, charming, memorable film. It’s about Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman), a jingle writer, who travels to London for his daughter’s wedding. Harvey’s daughter seems closer to her step-father than Harvey, which all but destroys Harvey. His job is also at stake, and his relationship with his daughter is in turmoil. Then, he meets Kate (Emma Thompson), who has her own troubles.
Thompson is, as always, right on the mark in a commendable performance. But Hoffman goes beyond the mark. He doesn’t play a role in a movie, but inhabits it. It’s little things, like tear-filled eyes and silence in an attempt to stay strong when his daughter gives heartbreaking news. When he talks to Thompson, he is a little lost and has little to lose, but manages to be charming, sweet, and funny in a gentle sort of way.
The writing by young writer/director Joel Hopkins is strong, especially the dialogue. I wonder how much the seasoned actors improvised. But it doesn’t really matter, because Hoffman and Thompson have enough pull to pick roles they love; they saw something they loved in these characters created by Hopkins. Hopkins will be around for a while after this one.
This movie is still a romantic comedy, with all the predictabilities that come with that. But it stands on the upper-echelons of the genre. It is at times heartbreaking, at times hilarious, and at times beautiful. All the while, it’s a movie so gentle and enthralling that it’s hard to take your eyes away.

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