In Havana, Cuba in the late 1950s, a wealthy family, one of whose sons is a prominent night-club owner, is caught in the violent transition from the oppressive regime of Batista to the ... See full summary »
Harvey Shine is in London for the weekend for his daughter's wedding. His work in New York preoccupies him: he writes music for ads, and he knows his boss is pushing him aside for younger talent. With family he's also on the sidelines - long divorced, his wife remarried, her husband closer to his daughter than he. His path crosses that of Kate Walker, unmarried, her life becoming that of a spinster, set up by friends on blind dates leading nowhere. After Harvey's no good terrible day, he chats Kate up at a Heathrow bar. She's not interested. Where can this conversation lead? Back at his daughter's reception, the step-father rises to give a toast. Written by
Harvey and Kate have met up on the train...in one scene (from the front) she is holding a book. In the next scene (shot from the back) she is fiddling with her scarf. In the scene after that (from the front once again) she is holding the book. See more »
A Conventional Third Act Weighs Down a Leisurely Autumnal Romantic Yarn
At its best, this rather slight 2008 melding of comedy and drama reminds me of Ulu Grosbard's bittersweet "Falling in Love" (1984) in which Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep stumble into a romantic relationship constantly derailed by guilt and commuter train schedules. At its worst, this film - leisurely directed and written by Joel Hopkins - uses several well-worn cinematic conventions - including a familiar third-act plot device from a classic movie - and forces a predictable ending that is far from satisfying. On the upside, it certainly helps to have actors the caliber of Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson in the principal roles, although I have to admit I was not taken in by their characters' halting romance because the actors are simply not meshing in a convincing way. In fact, this movie ironically works better when the actors perform in separate scenes away from each other. The problem is that the elfin Hoffman just tries too hard to overcome Thompson's self-protective demeanor of disappointment.
The story focuses on Harvey Shine, a divorced jingle writer whose career seems to be waning in the face of more youthful talent. At the same time, his daughter Susan is getting married in England, so he is anxious to offset his professional disappointments with a family reunion he really needs. However, their estrangement turns out to be deeper than expected since Susan tells him that she has already asked her rugged, engaging stepfather to give her away at the wedding. When he concludes that it is he who has become the family outsider, he meets Kate Walker, an airport employee who has the thankless task of surveying passengers coming off their flights. She also happens to be a lonely spinster who lives near her paranoid mother and finds the prospect of another failed blind date excruciating. Kate and Harvey meet-cute at a Heathrow lounge at their lowest emotional points, and they start to bond over long walks along London's South Bank. She convinces him to go to Susan's reception, and he agrees only if Kate becomes his date. The rest of the plot follows the story arc you would expect.
In perhaps a conscious move, Hoffman seems to be channeling a bit of Benjamin Braddock's schlubby, obsessive nature in "The Graduate" over forty years later. He is at his best when we feel Harvey's rejection in isolation, but the assertive approach the 71-year-old actor takes in courting Kate is challenging to embrace. Thompson, on the other hand, is a pure joy as Kate because she plays against the grain of what could have been a victim character. She wears Kate's disappointment in such a convincingly objective manner that her moments of heartache attain greater resonance. Eileen Atkins and Kathy Baker have just a few scenes to bring their characters to life, Kate's dotty mother and Harvey's still-resentful ex-wife, respectively. London looks pretty inviting thanks to John de Borman's crisp cinematography, though Dickon Hinchliffe's tinkling music punctuates the proceedings excessively. The 2009 DVD contains a nice audio commentary track with Hoffman (recorded separately), Hopkins and a particularly acerbic Thompson. The sixteen-minute featurette reflects the same personalities in a standard making-of format, although both this and the theatrical trailer give away too much of the plot.
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