Last Chance Harvey
dir-scr Joel Hopkins
with Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Eileen Atkins, Kathy Baker, James Brolin, Richard Schiff, Liane Balaban, Daniel Lapaine, Bronagh Gallagher, Jeremy Sheffield, Wendy Mae Brown, Tim Howard
release US 25.Dec.08, UK 5.Jun.09
08/UK 1h32
Last Chance Harvey
Meeting cute: Hoffman and THompson

atkins baker brolin
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Last Chance Harvey Almost obsessively slow and measured, this gentle human drama is sweet and engaging, but also slightly precious and contrived as it brings together two lonely strangers in London.

Harvey (Hoffman) is a New York jingle composer who heads to London for the marriage of his estranged daughter (Balaban), just as he begins to feel his age threatening his career. He also feels sidelined by his daughter, who's much closer to his ex-wife (Baker) and her stepdad (Brolin). Down on himself, he meets Kate, another lonely heart who feels her time is past. As they roam the city trying to cheer each other up, a surprising connection develops between them.

Writer-director Hopkins is both unwilling to rush things and unafraid to make the film smiley and cute. This would be unbearable if it didn't have two grumps at its centre, and if these two characters didn't have a remarkable spark of chemistry between them. Hoffman and Thompson are an extremely unlikely couple, but their scenes together have a wonderful rhythm, an ebb and flow that lets us see them discovering each other even as they refuse to get all gooey about it. For the most part.

There's something hugely satisfying about watching two sad-sacks find each other and help pull each other out of their gloom. And these two actors are both masters at subtle scene-stealing, which means there's a lot more going on in their interaction than in most films like this. While the script gives them some sparky dialog, and London looks fabulous on screen, Hopkins' direction is fairly flat. But this adds to the film's warm and comfy vibe, and helps us forgive it when it dips into glaring coincidences or cheesy emotion.

In other words, this is one of those films that, even as you see all of its flaws, still wins you over, generating huge amounts of sympathy for the two lead characters long before they actually meet. Amid their self-doubt, Hoffman and Thompson sparkle with humour and life, and we know they'll rediscover their mojo before the end, so getting there is all the fun. And watching these middle-aged people find out that they have a lot of life left in them is thoroughly endearing.

cert 12 themes, language 15.Apr.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall