Last Chance Harvey
Joel Hopkins :: USA, UK :: 2008 :: 1h33
Harvey (Dustin Hoffman) is a disillusioned jingle-writer from New York. When his daughter is to marry in London, he flies over to be confronted with his failed parenting and his ex-wife’s harmonious new life, with husband, their daughter and future son-in-law. Desperate to hide from his failings, he tries to go back home, to his miserable life, but even that fails. But not all is doom and gloom. As life treats him badly, he finds himself face to face with a woman (Emma Thomson) who can, and will, change everything.
Last chance for Love is does not really have enough material for a full feature length movie, dragging its feet along to fill the obligatory one and a half hours. Its general structure is one of standard American romantic comedies, complete with the repeat star tag lines of the beginning, an element which is becoming embarrassingly dull. The plot twist which is to separate the lovers is, even by romantic comedy standards, surprisingly uncreative. And then there’s the climax, which here is a sentimental stretch of about 15 minutes with an unlikely complete reversal of fortune, which will ruin the film for any masculine audience members, and potentially for the rest as well. And the romantic backdrop? They keep walking up and down the south bank along the Thames – I suppose Hopkins thought this obligatory for such a film, even if that is little embarrassing for a Londoner. A little more location scouting could have made it seem as if the movie was actually made by an Englishman. Well, so much for the formula aspect of the film.
What the film does have going for it, is the trivial conversation and chemistry between the two characters. It is reminiscent of Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater) in the sense that if you are taken in by the chemistry of the actors, they slowly expose their characters through the uttering of relative trivialities. This is a captivating way of discovering character, and it is well done here. The whole trivialities script is glued together with Dustin Hoffman’s charming smile, which works well. A little light as the plus point of a film, but there you have it.
If you have trouble dealing with standardised commercial film, then please avoid this one. If you think you can handle it, by all means take the plunge and let us face it, if you can get by the title and the poster you are already half way there! If you have to leave after an hour, then fear not, you will have seen the best part… and you might make up a better ending in the pub…
NB Thank you Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thomson and Joel Hopkins for coming to present their movie last night at the French premiere. They were charming as ever and Ms Thomson shined with her impeccable French.