Ever have one of those times you’re going on a road trip and you go through your CD collection? You grab a Led Zep, Beatles, Nirvana, Iggy Pop, Doors, White Stripes, Johnny Cash, and…The Little River Band. You figure you’ll bring it just in case you want to chill out and relax a little while you drive. Well, Last Chance Harvey is the Little River Band of movies.
It’s formulaic, sappy, predictable, and a rather thin plot. Yet it’s charming as hell, and you’ll leave the theatre with a big smile on your face. Perhaps you have to be a little older and have experienced certain things in life to enjoy reminiscing along with the Little River Band singing Reminiscing…or to watch an older couple fall in love for the last time.
Writer/director Joel Hopkins (Jump Tomorrow) gives us a mature, adult love story that’s rather refreshing. If it had Julia Roberts and Liam Neeson – I probably would’ve hated it.
It helps that you have two Oscar winners in Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. Hoffman plays Harvey Shine, a jingle writer who goes to London for his estranged daughter’s wedding. At the airport, he meets the sad but sweet Kate. They end up doing their version of Before Sunrise, and really open up their vulnerabilities to each other.
It’s easy to root for Hoffman, even after we find out that many of his problems are by his own making. He also gets that phone call when he’s in England, that his job won’t be there when he gets back.
When Hoffman gives an impromptu speech at the wedding reception – the range of emotions you can see in his face and hear in his voice – it’s why we say certain actors are great. He conveyed joy with sorrow perfectly. I really can’t think of another actor, at that very moment, that would’ve been better with that dialogue.
There’s a scene with James Brolin (where has Babs been keeping him, locked up at home?). He’s the new husband of Hoffman’s ex, and that wasn’t an over-the-top mess that a lesser movie would’ve made that confrontation.
There are a few minor missteps. When Hoffman doesn’t show up for a date, or a boss is calling to offer Harvey his job back. Those scenes are never done well in movies.
There’s a lot of warmth in this picture, and the relationship doesn’t feel forced. They have chemistry, and as we watch them walk around London town, we see the sparkle in their eyes.
This movie gets a B+.