Sunday, January 11, 2009

Last Chance Harvey

“Last Chance Harvey” has pretty much what you would expect from a romantic comedy; loser guy is alone, he meets interesting woman and wins her affections, he then screws up and loses her, and then has to get her back. This doesn't mean it's a bad film though, because what it lacks in original ideas it makes up for in casting.

Dustin Hoffman stars as Harvey Shine, a divorced commercial jingle writer who has traveled to London to see his daughter get married. Upon arrival he discovers that he's essentially been ostracized from the whole event. He's the only one staying in a hotel, he's wearing totally inappropriate clothes to the dinner the night before the wedding, and his daughter (Liane Balaban) even wants her step-father (James Brolin) to give her away at the wedding. He's a miserable man.

Emma Thompson plays Kate Walker, and airport survey-taker who is initially blown off by Harvey when he first arrives in London. She's another complete sad-act; she's never been married, and is constantly hassled by her mother, Maggie (Eileen Atkins), who believes her neighbor to be a serial killer. Kate is every bit the odd-cog that Harvey is, she's hesitant to meet new people and do new things, although she is much more likable.

Fate tries to throw Harvey and Kate together a couple of times before finally succeeding when they both end up in an airport bar, her relaxing after work, and him trying to dull the pain of the last twenty-four hours. After a bit of snarking back and forth they hit it off, and that's where things get a bit odd.

The entirety of the film takes places over the course of three days, so there is not a lot of time for their relationship to develop, in fact their relationship seems to peak in about 12 hours from having lunch in the same pub to the initial peak of their relationship. The behaviour that Kate seems to find somewhat charming, if odd, would best be described by pretty much anyone else as creepy and stalker-ish. He follows her on a train, and then to her writing class, and before the sun is even down he is begging her to go to his daughter's wedding reception with him.

The speed of their relationship is not the only odd thing in the movie, there are other plotholes as well, but they are small ones, like what happened to the clothes and purse that Kate had when her and Harvey are out together during the day when they go to the wedding reception? I think to get the most enjoyment out of this film, you may actually want to view it more as a modern fairy tale than as the romantic comedy that I described it as before.

Another issue with this film is that it is pretty short. It comes in at ninety-two minutes, and it doesn't even feel that long. If you took out the sub-plot of Maggie and her neighbor it would be even shorter than that. I don't know that there is really much more you could do with the movie, other than to continue of from where it ends, and that seems like it was be a bad idea, as the ending is probably one of the most perfect parts of them film.

Ultimately, there's not much here to either like or hate. This movie doesn't really try to do anything new, the plot is tried and true, the progression of events require a lot of suspension of disbelief, and the writing only really shines at a few points overall. In fact, the only things that keeps this movie from getting a solid “meh” are the performances of Hoffman and Thompson, who bring life, charm, and personality to an otherwise dull script.

Unless you are really a fan of Emma Thompson or Dustin Hoffman, or you are just really in the mood to see an amusing little romantic comedy there is really no reason to go see this in theaters. This is a movie worth seeing, but on a night when there's nothing on television. I would recommend waiting a couple of months, and then giving “Last Chance Harvey” a chance when you can rent it on DVD.

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