Last Chance Harvey
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson
By Stella J. Kim
Beautifully directed by Joel Hopkins, Last Chance Harvey is an emotional and sensitive film. Hopkins does not hold back with capturing the feelings of isolation and hopelessness felt by the characters through his use of loud silences and lyrical music. But what should have been a great film instead oozes with ordinariness and predictability.
It stars Academy Award winners Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson as two lonely singles who find each other one day, unexpectedly, and discover love once again. Neither are prepared for the other, and they spend an entire day and night together, learning from each other and piquing each others’ romantic spirits . Hoffman is (not plays – Hoffman embodies this character to the fullest) Harvey Shine, a divorced jingle-writer who heads to London for his estranged daughter’s wedding, while Thompson plays Kate Walker, a single, British airline worker who is constantly nagged at by her lonely and bored mother.
Both Harvey and Kate are uncomfortably awkward, lacking the social skills to properly engage in conversation. When the two meet, however, their awkwardly ways are beneficial, as they both seem to understand and find kindred spirits within each other. So what could go wrong with two dynamic actors, who have both ridden the Oscar glory boat, working together in a film about life, love, and lost hopes and dreams? A lot, apparently.
Despite their talents as separate artists, the enigmatic Dustin Hoffman and the engaging Emma Thompson fail to light up the screen in Last Chance Harvey. Now don’t get me wrong – it is not the actors who cause the mediocrity that is this film. In actuality, the two work off of each others talents superbly, creating a world that viewers can fall into, holding their breath until the last moment of the film. However, despite their talented performances, the film, itself, is what failed to fulfill its full potential. It was sad, it was moving, it was heartfelt. But it lacked the heart. The entire film moved together as one entity, but something was missing. It felt half an hour too long, with unnecessary and unfinished sub-plots and overly sappy and sentimental in-betweens.
The main storyline of Last Chance Harvey focuses around Harvey and his failed relationships with his daughter (Liane Balaban) and no-nonsense ex-wife (Kathy Baker). Harvey’s addiction to his work in his past led to his own loneliness. As Harvey tries to get back into good relations with the daughter he barely knows, his old habits come back. In one scene, Kate asks Harvey if he was good as a jazz pianist, something he always wished he could be. He responds with “No, not good enough.” This simple line encompasses his life story – he was never, and still isn’t, good enough. However, with some help and convincing from Kate, Harvey finds a new confidence that allows him to finally make a change in himself, which shows when he gives his father-of-the-bride speech at the wedding reception. This scene seems to have been meant to be the climax of the film, but even as the two women on either side of me sobbed quietly into their tissues, blowing their noses and wiping their faces, my cold, stoic self did not shed one tear. Not even a sniffle. Am I a robot? Seeing as the speech given by Hoffman, which was meant to move audiences, was an awkwardly eloquent, but convincingly touching monologue, maybe I am. But the speech was also unoriginal and expected. This scene, of course, had to happen – Harvey finally puts away his self interest and makes a speech for his daughter, completing the character development to show that he has changed – but there is no real closure, and the strengthening of the bond of father and daughter never really is resolved, and instead just fizzles out to the next scene.
Highly sentimental and emotional, but overly unoriginal. I predicted everything before it happened. It was an evident crowd-pleaser in my theater (for the 50 and over crowd), and the audience seemed pleased to be swayed and convinced to emote the desired reactions. But as far as reaching above and beyond its potential, Last Chance Harvey is barely on its tiptoes. The only reason the sub-par and overdone storyline works is because of the superb acting skills of Hoffman and Thompson. The experience of the actors shows, as the two work effortlessly together – their acting is what makes the movie magical.