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 arrives at the restaurant with an electronic tag still attached to the sleeve of his jacket, as seen during the taxi scene. Inside the restaurant he is introduced to his daughter's friends but he doesn't shake hands as he doesn't want the people to see the tag, but after a while there is a shot where the sleeve doesn't have the tag anymore. See more »
While Joel Hopkins' Last Chance Harvey does not break any new ground, it contains some very unusual features for a romantic comedy: lovers who are over fifty years old and estranged family members who treat each other with civility. The film is about second chances and, in this case, perhaps third or fourth chances, and reminds us that it is never too late to turn our lives around or to clean up past mistakes. Dustin Hoffman (who is 71) pursues Emma Thompson (who is 49 and a few inches taller than him) but the relationship neither feels awkward nor strained thanks to the magnificent performances by these accomplished actors who truly inhabit their characters.
Both Harvey Shine (Hoffman) and Kate Walker (Thompson) at this stage in their lives seem to be lost but carry on with determination. Harvey is a wannabe jazz pianist who has settled for work writing jingles for commercials but obviously feels that he has missed his calling. Divorced from his wife Jean (Kathy Baker) and estranged from his daughter Susan (Liane Balaban), Harvey is traveling to London to attend his daughter's wedding but dreads the reunion. Meanwhile, his boss (Richard Schiff) comments about the new young people coming into the company, presumably thinking they can improve on Harvey's performance. When Harvey tells his boss that he is going to London for the weekend for the marriage of his only daughter, he warns him that there will be consequences if he does not return on Monday.
When Harvey arrives at his hotel expecting to find the wedding party, he finds that everyone else is staying at a mansion rented by his daughter's wealthy stepfather Brian (James Brolin). Seething inside, Harvey still manages to show good cheer at the reception, that is, until he receives a double dose of bad news: Susan tells him that she is going to have Brian give her away and a phone call from his job tells him that he is being let go from his job. To perk up his spirits, after missing his flight back to JFK, Harvey meets Kate (Thompson) in the airport bar. Kate (who has never married) works for a statistics company interviewing arriving passengers on incoming flights at Heathrow and had been refused an interview by Harvey when he first arrived.
Both are disappointed in life, Kate's spirits being especially down after she was ignored during a blind date and created an excuse to leave early. The unlikely pair open up to each other, however, and begin a relationship based on mutual need. Their all-night walk around London saves them the awkwardness of having to go to a hotel together and gives the viewer a lovely montage of the city, their conversation only interrupted by phone calls from Kate's mother Maggie (Eileen Atkins) who has recently recovered from cancer and is paranoid about a new Polish neighbor.
Kate convinces Harvey to attend his daughter's wedding reception in a charming scene marred only by a clichéd montage of Kate trying on different gowns in the dress store. When Harvey brings Kate to the reception, he seems to have a new level of confidence and his wedding toast to his daughter is extremely touching. At this point, many things could go wrong but do not. As Andrew Sarris has pointed out, "In these times of institutionalized bad manners on screen and off, it is refreshing to see a movie smoothly returning to an age of courtesy and courtliness leavened by wit and genuine sincerity." While Last Chance Harvey will never be confused with great romantic comedy, it is heartfelt and sincere, and its message that people at all ages have the power to transform the quality of their lives left me with a smile.
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