Directed by , Joel Hopkins
Last Chance Harvey
There are so few films where famous actors can actually play their age that “Last Chance Harvey” is a refreshing and needed corrective. Dustin Hoffman, now 71, and Emma Thompson, now 49, are not necessarily a match made in heaven, but they play their roles so well, and don’t step over the line into a phony romance, that whatever may happen to them we gladly wish them well.
Hoffman is Harvey Shine, a failed jazz pianist who makes his living in New York writing the music for commercial jingles. Thompson is Kate Walker, who works for an airline at Heathrow and is what we used to call a spinster – never been married, close to her mother, resigned to not having romance in her life. Somehow the writer and director, Joel Hopkins, has managed to find a way to make the two of them into an absolutely lovely couple.
Harvey has come to London for the wedding of his daughter Susan, whom he is no longer very close to; his ex-wife has a husband, Susan’s stepfather, who will give her away at the wedding. This is ripe for melodrama, obviously, but Hopkins simply records it and Hoffman’s own reactions and lets it go. Meanwhile Harvey, who’s been trying to get back to New York for a meeting with his largest client, misses the plane and learns that he’s been fired. Kate, on a rare blind date with a younger man, is humiliated when he finds another, younger woman whom he’s obviously much more interested in..
Harvey and Kate have had a glancing meeting at Heathrow when he arrives, but after he misses his return flight he and she have a lovely meeting again that leads to a walk along the Thames. It would be cruel to give away what happens at the wedding and the reception, but they both have the feel of actuality and they are the best part of the film. What doesn’t quite work, and in fact is a cheap device, is that he misses their 12 noon rendezvous and she thinks that she’s been let down once again; we know otherwise.
Watching these two icons of film working together to make the most of their roles is a delicious treat. Hoffman and Thompson can express more with just an eyebrow or a lip than most actors can do with their whole body. “Last Chance Harvey” may not be the film of the year, but it’s lovely and warm and funny and sad and will reward anyone who needs one or more of those things in their lives.