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Vol. LXIII, No. 2
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

I TOLD YOU THAT I’D DANCE AT YOUR WEDDING: Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman, left) has made up with his daughter Susan, (Liane Balaban), and manages to enjoy a dance with her at her wedding reception.

Last Chance Harvey: Aging Jingle Writer Meets Shy Spinster in Romantic Comedy

Kam Williams

When you’re working with a script as insubstantial as Last Chance Harvey’s, you’re lucky to cast actors who are the caliber of Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. British director Joel Hopkins owes a debt of gratitude to these talented Oscar winners because they generate the required chemistry between their characters, thereby transforming a superficial sitcom into a movie well worth watching.

Hoffman has the title role of Harvey Shine, an aging New Yorker who is facing his last chance to succeed in love, in his career, and as a father. As the story opens, we find the frustrated jazz pianist having a hard time holding on to his day job as a TV-jingle writer. Despite a stern warning from his boss, (Richard Schiff), that his job is in jeopardy unless he attends an important meeting on Monday morning, he flies to London over the weekend to attend the wedding of his estranged daughter, Susan (Liane Balaban), to Scott (Daniel Lapaine).

Harvey was hoping to reconcile the strained relationship between himself and his daughter, but quickly regrets his decision to attend the wedding when, shortly before the ceremony, Susan informs him that she’s already asked her stepfather (James Brolin) to walk her down the aisle. Devastated, he rushes back to Heathrow but arrives too late to catch a flight home in time to prevent his being fired from his day-time job.

So, he dejectedly drags himself into the airport bar to try and find some solace in a pint of beer. While sitting in the pub he meets, and becomes instantly infatuated with, Kate (Emma Thompson), the establishment’s only other customer. Striking up a conversation with the shy and retiring spinster, Harvey learns that she’s also down-in-the-dumps. Besides being stuck in a dead-end government job, the middle-aged civil servant’s social life leaves much to be desired, between unsuccessful blind dates and the constant smothering of her life by her overly attentive mother (Eileen Atkins).

Soon sparks start to fly between these two lost souls, and Kate somewhat reluctantly agrees to accompany Harvey to his daughter’s wedding reception. After the reception, Harvey puts his plans to return to the States on hold indefinitely in order to pursue the romance which is rapidly developing between them.

Will the affair blossom into true love? That is the unanswered question at the center of Last Chance Harvey, an adventure which devotes more attention to shooting its protagonists in a variety of familiar and spectacular London backdrops than to having them explore their feelings in any depth. You won’t be disappointed as long as you don’t expect anything more than a pleasant, predictable, lonely hearts story.

Very Good (3 stars). Rated PG-13 for brief profanity. Running time: 92 minutes. Studio: Overture Films.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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