JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Last Chance Harvey (Director/Screenwriter: Joel Hopkins) - January 21, 2009

Last Chance Harvey

2.5 2.5
92 min.

Reviewed at the 2009 Palm Springs International Film Festival
So much talent, too little script

The unintentional metaphor of director/writer Joel Hopkins’ second feature from what initially promised to be an Eric Satie Gymnopédie—stealing the musical premise then fading into an inferior tune—couldn’t have been purposely planned to better foreshadow the weakness of the ensuing romance.

Not even acting legends Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson could, er, rise above (the height-challenged sight gag takes forever to reach its payoff) a script drowning in a tide of situation cliché, precious coincidence and more saccharine than a diabetics convention.

To their considerable credit, the unlikely couple lit up the screen with several first-rate scenes of, initially, sardonic banter that gradually found its way to inner revelations that, on their own, were engaging, emotional gems surrounded by a largely distracting cast whose only purpose was to move the unconsciously smitten pair from encounter to encounter. Choosing Kate’s (Thompson) last-minute wedding-reception dress is a visual hoot as are the reaction shots when the courageous couple barge into Grosvenor House only to be seated at the kids’ table.

By journey’s end, the supporting characters were “narratively” dismissed as readily as jingle-smith Harvey (Hoffman) from his conveniently fickle (“It’s over/come back, we need you”) Madison Avenue advertising firm.

A Hoffman/Thompson franchise—a publicist’s dream—sharing the same breath as Tracy/Hepburn, insults the fabled magical chemistry (and strong writing) that produced the likes of Woman of the Year and Adam’s Rib thanks to screenwriters who let their characters evolve with real drama rather than bank on their marquee power to send the film to box office heaven.

And so we have to stomach plot points including: Life-saving heart medicine conveniently left at home on the other side of the Atlantic; chance meetings at the drop of a survey; a now-you-see-it/now-you don’t theft deterrent on Harvey’s new linen suit (initially hilarious but the encore bombed); and ignoring his new-found love while suddenly embracing the relatives which, only minutes ago, he couldn’t abide. And the list goes on.

In his opening remarks, Hopkins used the phrase “new beginnings at any age” to encapsulate the film. That was certainly true enough as the production moved along, unfortunately, the end wasn’t justified by the means employed to get us there. JWR

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Director/Screenwriter - Joel Hopkins
Producers - Tim Perell, Nicola Usborne
Cinematographer - John de Borman
Editor - Robin Sales
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