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Friday, January 16, 2009

Last Chance Harvey

Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson star in LAST CHANCE HARVEY, an Alliance Films’ release. Image courtesy of Alliance Films.

LAST CHANCE HARVEY - an Alliance Films Release


Opens wide: January 16th, 2009

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

Running time: 97 minutes

Joel Hopkins (dir.)

Dustin Hoffman as Harvey Shine

Emma Thompson as Kate Walker

Eileen Atkins as Maggie Walker

Kathy Baker as Jean

Liane Balaban as Susan

James Brolin as Brian

Richard Schiff as Marvin

Our reviews below:


Last Chance Harvey Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

Last Chance Harvey is a low-key romance by director Joel Hopkins, starring Dustin Hoffman as Harvey Shine, a down on his luck American man who goes to London for his daughter Susan’s, (Lianne Balaban), wedding. Although when he gets there, it seems things have only gotten worse. He has drawn estranged from his family, and his job as father has been all but replaced by Brian (James Brolin), the new husband of his ex-wife. When he goes to a pub to calm down, he meets Kate Walker (Emma Thompson), an unmarried English woman. The film is pleasant, yet predictable, and the best part of it is watching the two talented actors interact.

While it is a romance, it almost feels as if the director tried to infuse comedy into it. While a subplot of Kate’s mother thinking her neighbour is a murderer is funny, it also feels kind of pointless. There is one scene where Harvey is standing back watching Kate, and he’s about to walk over to her, when about five bikes cross his path. This isn’t funny, it’s more of a distraction, something that even if it might happen in real life, doesn’t need to be seen in a romantic-drama. It is barely seen and a lot of people probably won’t even notice it, but it is one of those small things that for a brief moment brought me out of the movie.

Another problem I had with it is, I know in real life the streets of London would be busy, but in a lot of scenes there are always tons of extras in the background that seem to be brought into the foreground. They don’t make it more believable, but just serve as a distraction, making some of the scenes seem scattered and busy, when they really don’t need to be. When we are watching Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson walk the streets of London, we don’t need a background filled with mimes, buskers, skipping children, and in one scene, an adult man skipping down the street. Maybe I’m being too hard on it, but I don’t think so. Even if they are just extras, I’m sure the director has some control over them.

One of the things I really liked about it is the simple and mature romance between the two main characters. What made it so believable for me was the fact that after they first meet, they are not in bed by the next scene. It is not as much a romantic relationship as it is a romantic friendship, something that we don’t often see in Hollywood, and is actually quite refreshing.

Credit also needs to be given to cinematographer John De Borman, who sets up some really nice shots. Notably a scene where Harvey stands with his back against a wall, and we also see his reflection in a mirror, and a scene where we watch from the back as Harvey gets out of a cab, and Kate gets in the other side.

The score by Dickon Hinchliffe is quiet and peaceful and the acting by Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson is excellent. While it is far from a perfect film, it is still pleasant and very enjoyable. I really did like this film, I just wanted to like it a little bit more.


Last Chance Harvey Review By Erin V.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Last Chance Harvey is the story of Harvey Shine, (Dustin Hoffman), a man who is on the verge of losing his job as a jingle writer. He flies to London for his daughter’s wedding, only to find that she wants her step-father to walk her down the aisle. In a series of events he meets Kate Walker, (Emma Thompson), and through their gentle friendship, they start to change each others lives...

Sometimes we go to movies to escape to a fantasy land, other times we go to watch an action movie, other times it’s a romantic movie, but no matter what genre we choose, in short, we want to be entertained.

What I found about this movie was that it was like time had stopped. In the simplicity of the story, it was as though I was in a moment being an observer to these people’s lives, and there was nothing else. It’s not fast-paced, and it felt right. My mind did not wander from the storyline, as I was just content to follow along at the quiet pace. Each scene was there for a reason, and I didn’t really feel like anything really should have been omitted. All of the dialogue brought you through the story to it’s conclusion, the moments on screen moved the story forward, and for me, that’s what I want from a movie. Sometimes the simple things on screen are what draw you into these characters as people. The simple things, the actions and reactions are what make you care. This whole movie was executed very well, from the music, to the acting, to the cimematic shots of London.

Music in film is very important to me. I found the score in this movie to be done the way I had hoped it would be. Because of the kind of movie it is, the quiet score is a great story telling method. It is not overscored at all, and Dickon Hinchliffe, who composed the music, got the feel for the movie just right. I found the reoccurring musical theme of the movie was gentle in it’s execution, yet powerfully moving in it’s simplicity, and throughout the movie, it occurred at all of the right moments to work.

Another thing about this movie is the acting. Both Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Thompson were believable in their roles, (they were both nominated for Golden Globe Awards for Last Chance Harvey), and that’s a big part of what made this movie really work for me. Sometimes a movie like this comes along, and you can really see how if different actors were chosen, the movie would not be the same. This is an example of this, as it is their sincerity as actors that paced the movie properly. They made it a pleasure to watch, while other actors probably wouldn’t have quite nailed it.

All in all, Last Chance Harvey is a calm movie, that flows at exactly the right pace for it’s gentle romances and friendships. I can definitely recommend this movie. It is a heartfelt, believable story about two people who after so many years are meant to meet and change each others lives. While I'm not saying it's a flawless movie, it is truly enjoyable, and is one that I look forward to seeing again.


Last Chance Harvey Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

It is a rare treat to see a romantic comedy that doesn’t rely on sexual scenes to tell the story.

This story is about Harvey, an ordinary man who is told by his boss he has one last chance to keep his job as a jingle composer. But Harvey has to go to London, England for his daughter Susan’s wedding. Things start to go wrong for Harvey when Susan rejects him, saying that she would rather her stepdad give her away. Then when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, Harvey misses his flight back home, and loses his job. Frustrated, Harvey heads to the bar to cool off. There he sees the same woman he had been impatient with at the airport when he arrived in London. Harvey apologizes, and introduces himself, and she introduces herself as Kate. They get talking and slowly get to know each other. One simple apology gradually leads two previously unknown people to an unexpected friendship.

Kate then tells Harvey that he needs to forgive his daughter, and attend her wedding banquet. Harvey invites Kate along, (even buying her a new dress for the occasion), and this simple act of forgiveness strengthens the relationship between them. As the relationship continues, Kate is able to come to terms with a tragic decision. Together, Kate and Harvey learn how to forgive others, her past, and in turn, themselves.

(Along with some of the more touching scenes, there are also really funny parts, such as Kate’s paranoid and nosy mother, who is convinced that her neighbour is a killer.)

This movie, unlike other romantic comedies, is a quiet low key movie, with a lovely, gentle score, and a message about love, family, and forgiveness. This movie also shows the importance of marriage. The relationship between Kate and Harvey is innocent. With very little language, no sex, and no violence, this movie is very touching, and is definitely worth seeing, right till the end credits.


Last Chance Harvey Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

Last Chance Harvey is a charming, low key romance movie with absolutely believable and tender performances by the lead actors Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson.

Harvey Shine, (Hoffman), is leaving the U.S. in the middle of an important business deal to attend his daughter Susan’s wedding in England. Susan is played very nicely by Torontonian actor Liane Balaban, and the scenes between Harvey and Susan are nice to watch. The scene where Susan tells Harvey that she feels her stepfather Brian should be the one to give her away at the wedding is a particularly touching one. It is at his point and in another scene at the wedding rehearsal where Harvey is moved to the far end of the table that we realize how alone Harvey really is and how this really may be his last chance to make things right with his daughter.

Harvey’s business life is also at a last chance point. After he hears bad news about his job, he finds himself in an airport pub and a chance encounter with Kate, (Thompson), the airport employee who he was abrupt with when he first arrived in England.

Kate we realize is also lonely. Earlier in the movie we see her endure being set up by friends on a blind date at a pub. We also see her cope with her needy mother’s many phone calls. The scenes with her mother’s paranoia about the Polish neighbor next door provide light comic relief. (Stay through the closing credits to see a followup on this sub-plotline.)

When Harvey and Kate strike up a conversation at the airport pub, the banter is light and they decide to continue this encounter by walking and talking together. The developing friendship is lovely to watch. It’s nice to see a movie keeping things light and romantic without needing to resort to passionate kissing or bedroom scenes.

Kate manages to convince Harvey that he really needs to attend his daughter’s wedding reception, not just the ceremony earlier that day. He agrees reluctantly on the condition Kate attends with him. There is a key scene at the wedding where Harvey stands up to toast the bride that represents a turning point for him. Harvey and Kate stay up all night at the reception and agree to meet again at noon the same day. An unexpected event happens and Harvey can’t keep their meeting. When he finally does meet up with Kate she tells him that she is mad at him for making her feel that she can move out of her comfort zone of expecting disappoint. She also shares a life-changing event that explains some of her character’s underlying sadness.

The ending of this movie doesn’t disappoint the romantic viewer. Harvey and Kate, two lonely, vulnerable people, let the viewer know that romance can happen at any age, and can develop at a pace that’s comfortable and comforting. This is a lovely romantic movie that would be enjoyable solo, or as a date movie with very little offensive material other than some mild language. The musical score is also lovely and adds to the quiet charm of this little gem. Whether you see this one now or wait for the DVD release, keep this one on your list of romantic movies.


Last Chance Harvey Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) is a divorced jingle writer flying to London for the wedding of his daughter Susan (Liane Balaban). Kate Walker (Emma Thompson) is a single airport passenger interviewer whose life is frequently interrupted by phone calls from her anxious mother (Eileen Atkins). Until they meet, the film cuts back and forth between their parallel lives. Harvey doesn’t fit in at the pre-wedding dinner with his chilly ex (Kathy Baker) and her current husband (James Brolin). When Harvey tells Susan he will be at the chapel but has to fly back to New York before the reception, Susan tells him she has asked her stepfather to give her away at the wedding. Harvey gets stuck in traffic and misses his flight. When he phones New York his boss (Richard Schiff) fires him. In an airport bar he meets Kate and offers her to buy her lunch. A friendship builds as Harvey gradually breaks through the defenses Kate has built up over many years. When he mentions the wedding reception, she insists he should be there, but he will only go if she is with him. They show up just in time for speeches. I won’t spoil the ending.

This is a very quiet film. The characters are all believably ordinary, with no more than the occasional awkward embrace between them. The trust that director Joel Hopkins put in his brilliant cast to improvise with his script has paid off. Completely done on location, the London scenes are always attractive, even on the buses. The background score (Dickon Hinchliffe) is mainly solo piano–“sparse but beautiful” as described in the first line of the screenplay, interrupted at key points by various vacuum cleaners.


Consensus: Last Chance Harvey is a quiet romantic film, that feels very believable in it’s execution, due to the noteworthy performances given by Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. *** (Out of 4)