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3 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Last Chance Harvey
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Harvey Crumpet"
4 stars

If you happened to catch “Stranger Than Fiction,” that odd and largely misbegotten film from a couple of years ago that offered viewers both a watered-down version of the bold narrative gambits found in the works of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and the questionable sight of Will Ferrell attempting to show off his dramatic chops, you will recall that the only scenes in the film that contained any real life were the ones featuring co-stars Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson playing off of each other--the two demonstrated such an instant rapport that you wished that the film would just abandon its tedious storyline and simply follow the two of them around instead. One person who must have felt this way about that film was British-born filmmaker Joel Hopkins because in “Last Chance Harvey,” his first film since the quirky 2001 indie hit “Jump Tomorrow,” he has basically given us just that--92 minutes nothing more than the two of them playing off of each other and while the results may not exactly be groundbreaking in any way, they do have an undeniable charm to them that keeps things moving along nicely enough.

Hoffman plays Harvey Shine, a New York jingle writer struggling with job insecurity who, as the film opens, is heading off to London to attend the wedding of his daughter (Liane Balaban) from a marriage that fell apart due to his neglect and Thompson is Kate Walker, a solitary polltaker whose social life has been reduced to a series of gruesome blind dates that are incessantly punctuated by phone calls from her gently nagging mother (Eileen Atkins). After a spectacularly bad morning that begins with his daughter being given away by her stepfather (James Brolin), continues with losing his job and is capped off with him missing the flight that he blew off the wedding reception to catch, Harvey is drowning his sorrows at a nearby pub when he meets up with Kate, who is having lunch while trying to forget her latest dating disaster. Although Kate is a bit frosty to him at first--they actually met the day before when Harvey rudely blew her off when she tried to interview him for her survey--the two eventually begin to hit it off and when it comes time for the two of them to part and go back to their respective lives, neither of them are particularly eager to separate. As a result, the two wind up spending an eventful day together in which they attend the wedding reception, confess their mutual fears and desires to each other and generally coming to the realization that they may have each unexpectedly found their respective soul mates after decades of searching.

Taken strictly on its own terms, “Last Chance Harvey” isn’t much to write home about--the admittedly slight storyline (which owes quite a bit to the Richard Linklater masterpieces “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”) doesn’t offer any real surprises and the melodramatic twists and turns in the last 20 minutes or so are largely unforgivable. As a result, it is the type of thing that completely lives or dies on the strength of the chemistry generated between the lead actors and in that regard, the end result is a success thanks to the efforts of Hoffman and Thompson.. At first, it is somewhat hard to accept either of them as the lonely sad sacks they are supposed to be playing--both of them (especially Thompson) seem too full of life even as we witness them in their most pathetic moments early on--but once the two of them finally come together, they begin sparking off of each other in such an undeniably appealing manner that you are willing to forgive the thinness of the material that they are working with. To be certain, these are not the greatest and most compelling performances that either Hoffman or Thompson have ever delivered (although it is nice to see Hoffman doing something that doesn’t involve him embarrassing himself in some silly kiddie flick like that “Mr. Magorium” nonsense) but they make up for that by demonstrating sheer acting craftsmanship to a degree that is rarely seen these days.

Look, if you are in the mood for an ambitious or profound movie to see this weekend, there are any number of films out there that would fit the bill far better than “Last Chance Harvey”--titles like “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Che” and “Synecdoche, New York” come to mind. Those films are full-course feasts that offer adventurous viewers the kinds of tastes and sensations that they may have never experienced before in a movie theater. A film like “Last Chance Harvey,” on the other hand, is more like the cinematic version of a heaping helping of mashed potatoes or some other form of comfort food--it may be overly familiar and even a little bland for some tastes but when it is done well, as it is here for the most part thanks to its stars, the results are as tasty and satisfying as anyone could hope for.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16871&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/16/09 00:00:00
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User Comments

6/14/14 Jamie One of my favorite films, just beautifully done 5 stars
3/07/13 David Hollingsworth An uncliched love story that really works. 5 stars
5/06/09 the dork knight Emma Thompson FTW! 4 stars
5/04/09 Steve D So so film; pretty good love story 3 stars
4/13/09 porfle Pretty good for this kind of film. 3 stars
3/02/09 Samantha Pruitt a really sweet movie, with great acting, you got to love Dusty! 4 stars
1/30/09 12 dogs and a blog This movie is like a really fine short story. A life time told within 24 hours. 4 stars
1/19/09 Matilda How you failed to appreciate STF is beyond me, but at least you got it right with LCH. 4 stars
1/16/09 Aesop If you'd miss these two actors together, you have no soul. 4 stars
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  25-Dec-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 05-May-2009


  DVD: 05-May-2009

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