I couldn’t wait to see “Last Chance Harvey” when it was released to DVD. I missed the opportunity of seeing it at the theater. Consequently, I was determined not to miss it once it came to DVD. After all, it starred two of my generation’s greatest actors in Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson.
“Last Chance Harvey” centers on jingle writer Harvey Shine (Hoffman), a man who has devoted his life to his profession. On the way, however, he has let everyone else in his world fall by the wayside. That included not only his former wife, played by Kathy Baker, but also his daughter, Susan (played by Liane Balaban).
As the film opens Harvey is on his way to England to attend the wedding of his estranged daughter. He isn’t particularly happy about making the trip, but feels that he must go despite the fact that he thinks it stupid for two American kids to get married overseas.
While Harvey crosses the ocean to England, the audience is introduced to Kate Walker (Thompson), a single woman whose life is totally controlled by her mother, played by Eileen Atkins. It is obvious that she is unhappy but equally obvious that she isn’t really ready to make a real romantic connection.
Harvey and Kate first meet at the airport as Harvey hurries to claim his baggage. Kate tries to stop him to ask some questions for the firm that she runs. He brushes her off rudely and continues on his way without a second thought.
The film progresses slowly in the beginning, seeming to drag on a bit too long. The audience watches Harvey as he tries to interact with people with whom he obviously has nothing in common. That, unfortunately, includes not only his new son-in-law to be but also his own daughter.
On Kate’s end, the audience learns that Kate’s mother is leery of her new neighbor who constantly seems to be burning something in the shed that he built in his backyard. While she isn’t certain exactly what is going on, she remains convinced that it is something nefarious.
After Harvey reluctantly attends the wedding, he rushes back to the airport to catch his plane back to the states. However, he misses his flight and ends up getting fired from his job. It is when he goes into an airport lounge to drown his sorrows that he actually pays notice to Kate.
The two strike up a conversation and eventually end up sharing their life stories with one another. Before they know it, they realize they have spent the entire day together. When Kate finds out that Harvey skipped his daughter’s reception, she goads him into attending. He agrees, but only if she will go with him.
At the wedding, thanks to Kate’s influence, Harvey begins to look at things with new eyes and ends up making a beautiful toast to his daughter, his new son-in-law, his ex wife, and even her new husband. Kate and Harvey dance the night away and roam the streets continuing to talk until dawn.
That is as much of the film as I am willing to share. To go any further would definitely spoil the movie.
I like this film. I don’t love it as much as some critics did, but I like it. Both Hoffman and Thompson are consummate actors who seldom go astray. They don’t in this movie either.
Kathy Bates and James Brolin (the daughter’s new “dad) are both excellent as well. So is Atkins as Kate’s wacky mother. I have to say, however, that I’m not that impressed by Balaban. She does well enough but doesn’t leave a lasting impression.
The screenplay, penned and directed by Joel Hopkins, is charming. I would have liked it to move a bit faster but that’s just me.
Overall, I would give “Last Chance Harvey” just three out of five stars. It us good, but it definitely isn’t a movie that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
RATING SCALE USED:
0 = A stinker. Don’t waste the money!
1 = Bad. Rent it at your own risk.
2 = Below average. See only if you have time to kill.
2.5 = Average. A toss up.
3 = Good. Worth a looksee.
3.5 = Very Good. I recommend it.
4 = Excellent. Don’t miss it!
4.5 = Outstanding. What are you waiting for?
5 = Destined to become a classic. You will be sorry if you don’t see it.