January 26, 2009

Movie Review: Last Chance Harvey

lastchanceharvey1_large Last Chance Harvey is a movie I saw based almost solely on the fact that Dustin Hoffman received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance as the title character. In that respect, I guess the awards show did its job, it got me interested in a movie that I knew little about and had little interest in seeing. Of course, I have put myself through a lot of movies that I had no interest in that I ended up liking, so the possibility of me seeing this anyway was still there, but the nomination served to turn my real world interest around. I did see the trailer once or twice and found it to be mostly effective in giving an idea of what to expect.

lastchanceharveypic1Now, here I am in the afterglow of an adult romance (no, not that kind of adult. Seriously, it's Dustin Hoffman!), and reflecting on the sweet nature of the story that falters at the feet of the plot. Oh, that sinister plot. It is not often that we get a romantic comedy with mature characters at its center. Generally, we get the standard romantic comedy aimed at twenty-somethings (or thirty and forty-somethings playing younger) or we get the mature romance in the Nights in Rodanthe style. There is nothing wrong with either of those approaches, but it sort of leaves out a demographic that appears, at least to me, to be underserved. A good example of this would be the success of Wild Hogs a few years back. No, not a romantic film, but it did not center on kids and the non-kid audience reacted by going to the theater. Given a chance, Last Chance Harvey has that sort of potential.

Last Chance Harvey does its best work when the plot steps aside and allows Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson to ply their craft without having to worry about getting to the next plot point. It is these moments that I found myself drawn into the film and to the sad, frustrating lives these two people are living. They are both achingly alone and deeply sad; however, when they come together something clicks. Perhaps they recognize the need for companionship in each other? Or maybe they are just happy to talk with someone of a similar mindset. Whatever the case may be, they make a connection. These moments are well scripted by writer/director Joel Hopkins, they feel utterly natural and comfortable, however they are cut too short when the plot finds a need to interject itself.

lastchanceharveypic9The plot finds Harvey Shine (Hoffman), a failed jazz pianist who has found a career as a commercial jingle writer, traveling across the pond to attend his daughter's wedding. Not long after he arrives, he learns that his daughter wants her step-father (James Brolin) to give her away and that he has lost his job. The dejected Harvey finds himself at an airport cafe finding some cheer in a shot(s) of whiskey. At the same airport is Kate Walker (Thompson), she works as a pollster at the airport and had a less than pleasant meeting with Harvey less than 24-hours prior when he first arrived (he was less than polite). She is dealing with the everyday rudeness of those she questions combined with her mother who calls her incessantly and believes her new Polish neighbor is into dissection and murder.

There we are, Harvey must deal with loss of job and family and Kate must deal with her own loneliness and intrusive mother. We are forced to watch as Harvey must deal with his situations and Kate hers, wrapped around scenes of budding romance that work so well.

This is a solid movie with very good performances by the two leads that is natural, sweet, and is just magical to watch unfold. Nothing seems forced and the situations they are placed in (save for the dress buying montage) feel genuine. The best thing you can do with this movie is to sit back and watch as the romance unfolds before you. You will surely leave with a smile on your face.

Bottomline. Not a great movie, but one that seems to tap into an underserved realm of light romantic comedy. It is a movie that does not rely on big laughs or gags, or even the plot (despite its insistence in intrusion), and has a nice and easy flow. If you want a little romance and humor, you would do well to spend some time with Harvey and Kate.



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