Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: Last Chance Harvey


Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, and Kathy Baker

History: This film was both written and directed by Joel Hopkins (Jorge, Jump Tomorrow, Love Punch). The film was released on Christmas Day in 2008 to a very limited release, expanding shortly thereafter. Overall it made 32.5 million in the box office and I am unsure if this is considered a box office success or not because of my difficulty finding the official budget for the film. But the film felt like it could be made pretty cheap so I am going to assume it didn't need a huge budget. The casting choice of Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson was chosen because of their great work together in Stranger Than Fiction. Their desire to work together again brought them to this film.

My Personal History: This is my first viewing. I actually just picked this up the other day for $2 at a Blockbuster Video that is closing down. Other than that I was simply aware of it's existence but never knew what it was about.

Review: Well, this is my first blind dive review. As I stated a local Blockbuster Video is closing down (The one I used to work at in high school. Kinda sad) so the wife and I went on down there to pick up some cheap movies. The other three I'll list at the end of my review like I have in the past but this was one of the really cheap ones. For $2 we figured it seemed like it would be decent enough to justify a purchase. The way I see it, buying a movie for $2 isn't a lot different than renting a redbox movie for only $1 (or $1.20 I think it is now). The big difference is if you like it you get to keep it forever. If you don't like it then you didn't lose much.

The film centers around the lives of two people who clearly feel out of touch and alone in their life. Harvey (Dustin Hoffman) is a divorced man living far from any of his family. It's never made explicitly clear where exactly his family is living at the time this film took place. He does travel all the way over to England to attend his daughter's wedding, although it is repeated over and over "A long way to come for two Americans to be getting married" implying they live nowhere near there. His presence there is strange. Every scene he was in with anyone in his family it felt like he didn't belong there. It also felt like nobody wanted him there either. This made the scenes pre and during the wedding to be incredibly awkward, causing even myself to cringe in my seat from uncomfortableness.
Then there's Kate (Emma Thompson). Some chunks of her story are left to assumption as little details are given throughout the film. It is to my understanding that she is the type of woman whose life didn't quite go the way she hoped it would. This is hinted at the type of job she does. She is an attendant at an airport who asks people to take surveys regarding their travels. Can you image doing that 40 hours a week? I wouldn't be able to stand one hour of something like that. What a hellish job. She also keeps her anxious mother company with her father not around. Eventually in the story we find out her father ran off to France years ago. She is constantly being bothered by her mother who thinks her neighbor may be a serial killer because of "suspicious activity" and "an awful lot of grilling."

The two meet up entirely on happenstance at the airport bar. Kate is sitting down to a glass a wine over a book while Harvey drinks his troubles away from his horrible day. They make their first bonding moment by comparing their day. "Oh no, my day was far shittier." Then again if I lost my job due to missing my plane from horrible traffic on the way from having to skip out early on my daughter's wedding where she decided to have her step father giver her away over her actual father I would go to the bar, too. This is the tipping point of Harvey and Kate's relationship that truly is a movie romance to the T because romances like this aren't entirely realistic. I don't want to generalize especially since the woman I am now married to I met entirely on happenstance but let me explain.

Harvey and Kate enjoy lunch "next to each other" as they called it. They chat for a while and make their goodbyes. Harvey then runs into her on the train leaving the airport, and by running into her I mean he bolts it from four cars away just to get to see her again. This would be red flag number one of a serial killer tendency. Again at the train station you'd think they are saying their goodbyes again until she mentions she's heading to a writing class in which Harvey offers to walk her to the class, carry her books. Once again this comes off as bizarre since they just met and he is acting like a school boy being obsessive over the cute girl in the class. Lastly when they get to the class Harvey offers to wait for the class to finish. It's just all really bizarre how he is acting around this woman he met hours earlier. This is why this is a movie relationship. In a realistic sense Kate would be horrified by his behavior and is wondering if she should keep any and every drink covered by her hand in case he tries to date rape her and she wakes up naked in a ditch somewhere she's never been with a kidney missing. On top of that the ages of the actors themselves is roughly 22 years difference! It was elements like this that made it difficult to initially get into the story. There were so many things happening in this short chunk of time in the second act of the film that gave off a weird feeling.

Once I was able to get past that last paragraph their relationship does start to shine. Yes the actors ages are quite different (Hoffman was born in 1937, Thompson in '59), but they're do a great job! Let me say how much I like Dustin Hoffman. Like many other people I think he is a fantastic actor. I have been treated mostly to his more recent work like Stranger Than Fiction and I do remember seeing Rain Man years ago but it's his early, classic work I haven't seen a lot of. One of these days I'd love to see Tootsie because I hear nothing but great things. I did see Straw Dogs and he was EXCELLENT in that one! This film is no exception. Where some of the writing falls short Hoffman brings it back up to make it a better film that it may have been with someone else. As Harvey who has had a lot of trouble and pain in his life you can really see it. There is a scene part way through the film at his daughter's wedding reception where he gives a heartfelt speech about how despite having a split family his daughter was able to become an amazing and independent woman. It was killing him to give that speech knowing that many of the people in the room hated or were embarrassed by him. The pain was in his expression and it was truly convincing.
Emma Thompson on the other hand was someone who never stood out for me. I know I've seen her in a bunch of movies before such as the Harry Potter films or once again along with Dustin Hoffman in Stranger Than Fiction, but this may be the first time I really noticed her. It's easy to tell she is incredibly unhappy with her life being alone without love of a companion and constantly having her bored mother bothering her all the time. Once Kate and Harvey's relationship start to kick off it's easy to see why Harvey is so attracted to her. She is a delightfully cute woman whose personality gives her plenty of depth. She also comes off as a very modest woman. I cannot imagine her taking advantage of a man being attracted to her by using him to her advantage. When she convinces Harvey to go to his daughter's wedding and agrees to go with him he insists on buying her a dress. They go out to get one and she comes out with a simple yet superb black dress. Nothing too fancy but it makes her shine.

One thing that is noticeable as the film goes on is how predictable it gets. This is truly a romance film in the most traditional sense. You tend to see where it's going three steps ahead of the story telling you where it's going. I watched this with my wife and she accurately predicted a curve-ball before it even happened. So for a story like this, like any slasher film, it's not what happens but how it all plays out. At first I felt like this film had nothing that stood out in it aside from the really well done performances. I thought about it more and came to a realization, how mature the film handled itself. Content wise it wasn't strong even by PG-13 standards. What gave it the rating were some "shit"s and an excerpt from an old man's sex fantasy novel. What I wound up really liking is that they fell in love with each other based on how they truly found out how they felt for each other. There is not a single sex scene in this film and it really was enriched because of it. I felt like the film was really trying to communicate that two people can fall in love with each other from the far simpler things than the complicated tangle sex can cause.

With all that said it's hard to really recommend this film highly. It wasn't a bad film, certainly not. It just wasn't superb. I would suggest this to people who are interested in a good love story who isn't a fan of vulgarity in film. This film does not have a lot of vulgarity so it's helpful there. Otherwise I am sure fans of Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman would enjoy this film as well. It is sure worth a $2 purchase at a closing Blockbuster Video!

No comments:

Post a Comment