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Last Chance Harvey (2008)

A movie directed by Joel Hopkins

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First Loves, Second Chances And Maybe Everything In-Between....

  • Jun 3, 2011

I still hate romantic comedies but occasionally, I would try to see one just to keep my objectivities grounded. It is a good way to not become jaded with the types of movies I see, after all there is only too much action, fantasy and horror one can see in an extended period before one gets burned out. Heck, I may have just done this for a woman, but you never know. Anyway, Joel Hopkins’ “LAST CHANCE HARVEY” has one of the most likable actors in the person of Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie, the Graduate) so I decided to give it a chance. Written and directed by Hopkins, the film is an endearing story of just how things just tend to work out in manner truly unexpected, and that taking a chance may lead to our happiness.

Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) is song writer who makes commercial jingles who lives in New York. He is having some work issues, as his boss is beginning to see him as the “old guard” in a new generation. Well, that’s the least of his worries, as he flies to London to attend his daughter’s wedding--he is informed that she will be asking her step father to give her away. To make things worst, Harvey missed his return flight and is on the verge of getting fired. Enter Kate Walker (Emma Thompson) a woman who works in the statistics department. Kate is a nice lady who is committed to taking care of her mother. Harvey spends the next few hours talking with Kate that the two end up enjoying each other’s company immensely. Harvey has one last chance at love, will fate bring them together?

                        Dustin Hoffman as Harvey Shine, Kathy Baker as Jean and James Brolin as Brian in "Last Chance Harvey."

                       Emma Thompson as Kate Walker and Bronagh Gallagher as Oonagh in "Last Chance Harvey."

The film’s main draw would have to be the performances between Thompson and Hoffman. They play off each other nicely, and I thought it was endearing that Hoffman is a lot shorter than Thompson, it gives their uneasy relationship a needed ‘character’. The two do appear like they’re common folk that you would see walking by. The two do develop some chemistry as the film goes on, the ‘getting to know you’ part of their relationship happens mostly off-camera, which is why some people may not really buy into their ‘one day’ relationship and may say they lacked chemistry. Well, the movie is about taking chances and complications; director Joel Hopkins does manage to flesh out our two leads in a manner I thought was effective.

The first act of the film is more about Harvey, when he arrives in London. He attends a party, with his ex-wife and daughter, and he unavoidably feels very alienated. Anyone would be bummed out when the step-father would be giving his daughter away. Then, Hopkins switches the scenes to see Kate taking care of her mom, then on a blind date that would not work out. It was also quite clever, the way Hopkins tossed in two missed opportunities for the two the meet, one in the airport and one in a cab. The screenplay by Hopkins gave the viewer a good amount of groundwork in fleshing out our two lead characters and remembers to put in a dose of fate into the mix. Only after Harvey misses his flight, with nothing to lose that the two finally get to talk in a bar/restaurant in the airport.

                         Emma Thompson as Kate Walker and Dustin Hoffman as Harvey Shine in "Last Chance Harvey."

                        Emma Thompson as Kate Walker and Dustin Hoffman as Harvey Shine in "Last Chance Harvey."

As the title implies, this movie is about Harvey Shine. For a film like this to succeed, it has to have certain heartbreaking moments and Dustin Hoffman delivers quite a few. The scene where he does the toast in the reception is definitely touching, and when he elaborates his failure as a father and as a husband to Kate, just made Harvey one VERY sympathetic character. Emma Thompson’s Kate Walker also has her share of baggage’s to carry, she seemed to have been stuck in a situation that she feels obligated to follow through. Kate gives hints to her very disappointing past, in the park and also in the film’s final act. It was quite sad to see one used to disappointment that it became a routine of life for her.

Now, despite the charm and manner as to how Hopkins manages to get the two together, the film does have its flaws. While the direction manages to flesh out Harvey and Kate, the film focuses more on Harvey, and it feels that Kate’s complications aren’t as important or significant as those of Harvey’s issues. Yes, Harvey does have the more unfortunate path, but I thought there were missed opportunities in fleshing out Kate’s issues. I rather thought that the subplot with her mother and the next neighbor was fun and clever, but I was more curious about Kate’s background. Kate feels like a supporting character rather than a lead. Harvey’s character was obviously better written than hers. Also, the film falls into the usual stereotypical nuances that complicate a relationship in the last act. I thought it was very clichéd and feels a little long-winded. It would have been better to just have the ‘taking a chance’ part take full circle; but then we see Harvey racing to the airport in pure stereotypical dramatic fashion.

                         Emma Thompson as Kate Walker and Dustin Hoffman as Harvey Shine in "Last Chance Harvey."

“Last Chance Harvey” is a charming, endearing tale about adult romance. Despite some plot mistakes, it was admirable in its penchant for adult relationships. It has good intentions but it does come up a little short. There were parts that I wished that this movie had limited supporting interactions and instead relied more on our two characters talking, it may have focused more on the “taking a chance” angle. Still, the dramatic performances by Hoffman and Thompson provide the film its needed zest, and the film gets a recommended rating from me.

Recommended! [3 ½ Stars Out of 5 Stars]
This review was originally posted in amazon.com

Video/Audio: 2.35:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen. Nothing too flashy with the picture quality, some scenes lacked contrast but black levels were stronger on most. The 5.1 Dolby digital sound is quite powerful and clear, the soundtrack does sound perfectly endearing.
Extras: commentary by Hopkins and making of feature. Original theatrical trailer.
Disc 2: An unnecessary full frame version of the film.
This Review was Originally Presented in Amazon June 1, 2009

3 ½ Stars: First Loves, Second Chances And Maybe Everything In-Between....

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June 04, 2011
Great review WP
June 04, 2011
Good review, as you know I absolutely loved this film, it is one of my all time favorite romantic dramas and a very touching look at the human side of love and how it can sometimes play out in unpredictable ways. But I can see why you thought this film was flawed it did have it's moments where it felt stereotypical and cliche but this film came through in the end and shone bright.
June 04, 2011
Hey, buddy! I have to admit, I should've re-visited the film before re-posting this review, but I got lazy. I have to admit, I am with you about its humanity about love, it also has stellar acting but there was just something missing about it. Don't let the less than impressive rating fool you, I liked it but it I had some minor issues about the writing. How have you been? any new posts?
June 04, 2011
I'm doing fine thanks for asking and yeah I posted a quick tip recently about the Ron Howard dark comedy "The Dilemma", how are you doing?
June 04, 2011
Yeah, I just saw that in Movie Hype and thanks! I am a little exhausted so I took a power nap before I wrote a new review. I am ok, but sure wish I was better.
More Last Chance Harvey (2008) reviews
review by . January 12, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
4 stars: Everyone deserves a second chance at love
Watching "Last Chance Harvey" I was washed over with the sudden memories of  such great romantic feelings that I had when I watched such romantic classics such as James Cameron's  "Titanic"(1997),  Michael Curtiz's "Casablanca"(1942), Jon Turtletaub's "While you were Sleeping"(1995). I felt the real authentic feelings o love between two people that I had not felt for some time, I had not felt the love, the emotion, the sensation …
Quick Tip by . April 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Sweet, romantic, endearing, charming, and utterly enchanting Joel Hopkins "Last Chance Harvey" is one of the most appealing romantic dramas I have seen in a very long time thanks to in part to wonderfully charming performances from Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman and a wonderful script from director/screenwriter Joel Hopkins. "Last Chance Harvey" is one of the most appealing romantic films you have the pleasure of seeing. This is an immensely appealing film, one of the most …
review by . August 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Taking Chances
   Harvey is a failed American husband, father, and musician who flies to London to attend the wedding of his only daughter. Kate is a lonely English woman who had spent her life playing it safe and expecting disappointment. When their paths happen to cross, Harvey strikes up a conversation with Kate, and they spend the rest of the day walking about London together. Kate is attracted to Harvey's simple, humorous chatting-up approach, and he likes her straightforwardness. Over the course …
review by . October 02, 2009
Last Chance Harvey opens with Harvey Shine (Hoffman), an over-the-hill jingle writer who's about to lose his job. He's flying to London to his daughter Susan's wedding, but promises to return on time for a key meeting with a client. In London, Harvey quickly finds himself alone in a hotel while the rest of the family and guests, his estranged wife and her new husband included, rent a house in the city. He is awkward in his interactions with others, even Susan, making blunders at every turn and creating …
review by . June 28, 2009
 I had to endure this pile of celluloid dross last night ($1.99 from Amazon Video on Demand!) and it took almost a whole bottle of wine to find any pleasure in sitting on the sofa on a Saturday night. The plot has something to do with a washed-up musician who writes jingles for commercials, watching his estranged daughter get married, his ex-wife have a better life with a new guy, and he subsequently stalks a British woman who has an overbearing mother and reads books. There - two hours …
review by . June 15, 2009
I must confess I am not biggest fan of romantic comedies in the realm of cinema. This is mainly due to the fact that in the past ten years (I feel) that romantic comedies all follow the same stereotypical formula:    - Young guy meets young girl.  - Both guy & girl are very superficial (to some degree).  - Both guy & girl are very materialistic (to some degree).  - Both guy & girl cannot act.  - The comedy is grossly pratfalls & physical …
review by . May 30, 2009
Admittedly, director Joel Hopkins wants to tell a love story about two life's-got-me-down individuals in his film "Last Chance Harvey" starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. Without the added accoutrement of madcap comedy or the usual boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-wins-girl entanglements, he does manage to showcase two actors with some pleasant chemistry between them in a fairly realistic storyline that promenades to a satisfying conclusion.     Physically, Thompson …
review by . May 25, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Before Sunset meets An Affair to Remember meets As Time Goes By. All wonderful films / programs in their own right. Last Chance Harvey pulls some of the best bits of these into a charming love story. It's a very simple sweet ride to the finish. Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman are simply wonderful to watch in this film. Add some of the more beautiful cinematography in some time, a nice soundtrack, and this is a very good film.    After watching the DVD special featurette, it …
review by . April 15, 2009
After a decade of playing serious roles in films for Hollywood, Dustin Hoffman now has a shot of happiness in "Last Chance Harvey." Though he doesn't start off very happy as a jingle writer who has recently been fired from his job. His comfort is supposed to be from giving away his daughter at her wedding in London, but she drops the bombshell that she's going to let her step father give her away. Crushed, Harvey walks away from the wedding where he meets Kate (Emma Thompson), a single woman in …
review by . April 16, 2009
On any list of proposed pairings for a romantic comedy, would you expect to see Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson? No, probably not. But LAST CHANCE HARVEY puts these troupers together in London and the results are a bit surprising. The story: New York jingle-writer Harvey Shine (Hoffman) is on his last legs in a job that's passing him by, and with difficulty he tears himself away from the daily crisis to attend his daughter's wedding in London. Long divorced, Harvey hasn't been close to his daughter …
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About this movie


Anyone who’s seen the trailer for Last Chance Harvey can easily guess how it ends. In fact, the title alone is a clue. But the destination is hardly the point with movies like this; it’s the journey that counts, and this one is pretty entertaining.

You could call director-writer Joel Hopkins’ film a romantic comedy, but it’s not especially robust in either of those departments. This is more of a character study, and veteran lead actors Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are well up to the task of bringing theirs to life. Both are awkward, lonely, social misfits. Hoffman’s Harvey Shine is a bit of a schlub; his gig as a jingle composer in jeopardy, estranged from his ex-wife (Kathy Baker) and daughter (Liane Balaban), he flies to London for the latter’s wedding, only to have her tell him that she has chosen her step-father (James Brolin) rather than him to give her away.

Meanwhile, Kate Walker (Thompson) spends her days trying to survey harried travelers at Heathrow Airport, answering her meddling mother’s constant stream of cell phone calls, and awaiting the all-to-inevitable onset of spinsterhood. Harvey has already brushed her off once when, having put in a humiliating appearance at the wedding and missed his return flight to America, he runs into her in an airport bar.

What ensues--the initial repartee and sarcastic snarking, the gradual breaking of the ice, the burgeoning attraction, the complications and misunderstandings--is ...
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Director: Joel Hopkins
DVD Release Date: May 5, 2009
Runtime: 93 minutes
Studio: Anchor Bay - ITN
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