Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Last Chance Harvey" (2008) - Movie Review

If life’s mistakes can be writ off by a single toast speech then it would be a happy world. Of course you have to be Dustin Hoffman to do it in man walking over a high wire and as his character Harvey Shine who has been notorious for embarrassing himself and others as said by his ex-wife Jean (Kathy Baker), he comes very close in doing it. He does it by interrupting his daughter’s step father Brian (James Brolin) making a toast on the wedding. “Last Chance Harvey” is something you learn how great actors can salvage a cliched story telling with a good help from the writer and director Joel Hopkins.

Harvey is getting too old for the hip job of jingles and he is coming to London for attending his daughter Susan’s (Liane Balaban) wedding. Kate Walker (Emma Thompson) works in the Heathrow airport asking the tired and grumpy passengers for that two minute survey. As expected Harvey avoids her quite rudely and settles in a wedding he is seen not alone as an outsider but some one to be aware of sudden awkwardness. He is bombarded with bad news one after another culminating in missing his flight back. He hits the airport bar and there is Kate reading a novel and drinking a white wine.

Harvey and Kate talk and it all comes together not in a intelligent conversation as “Before Sunset” but that back ground score and mild laughing and casual comfortableness the couple find each other to say that “Yes, they are having a good time”. What saves that preposterous routine is Hoffman and Thompson. From one stage after another they make sure that they are the couple who have come to enjoy each other’s company. In that the film does not sink to the low of romantic formula comedy and absolution happens over the screen.

With Harvey citing work reasons to skip reception it becomes clear of why his daughter Susan decides to opt for Brian to give her away at the wedding. The reaction in a regular film would have been to ride on the sympathy wave over Harvey. We do because the nice feature in seeing a film is that you can make a complete jerk into a charming personality for that couple of hours. We do need to know how much of a pain Harvey was and we would not care about it. He is the main man and the audience root him to succeed in this chain of debacles. Dustin Hoffman does not think so. He carries that nature of the audience but adds the history of Harvey being the scene maker. And as the eventuality of that happens, it is walked by an actor in control but letting loose of his character for the obvious embarrassment but keeps him on the leash to have that toast speech happen. I would not see it happening in the real life but in “Last Chance Harvey” it is a wonderland of a reality.

The other part of the Hoffman is through Thompson whose character is constantly pestered by a five minute phone call from her mother (Eileen Atkins) she loves. When Kate is been set up for a date at the early moments of the film by her friend she detaches herself from the possibility of an effort towards a possible relationship. I can understand her mind going in circles seeing the man opposite her advancing towards boyfriend, move in and marriage but at every single step of breaking up in those stages. Stepping into the race of love, it has to end some where and the hurt is imminent. But there is a mind within mind grinding those lovely moments which comes along with it. Emma Thompson in that makes us see the insecurity and fear of risk without much of commotion in everyone.

“Last Chance Harvey” is no great romantic story and has no great conversations or liners to remember for. It is a simple story we have seen much younger couple over the screen zillion times. This time around it is the veterans but gladly it has the veteran actors who can juggle it blindfolded and might even perform upside down without any issue. The audience of “Last Chance Harvey” sat one row beside of me, laughing and completely getting in between these two people. They are teenagers, but wait, I saw couples leaving happily too and there you go. The people will be happy and it is a good reason to be happy for.

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