March 31, 2009

Two Less Lonely People in the World

Last Chance Harvey is a sweet film about love, loneliness, family, alienation and as the title says, last chances. It's fun to watch because it is a lovely valentine to London, which is on top of my must-see places list. But the film is likeable and watchable mainly because of its stars. This is a great study in refined, subtle acting. This is about performers rising above a predictable, sometimes schmaltzy script.

Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) is a pianist who writes commercial jingles, going to London for his estranged daughter's wedding. He meets singleton Kate Walker (Emma Thompson), a Heathrow airport employee who we all know is going to change his life.

I was as disappointed as Harvey when his co-workers tell him he probably wouldn't have a job to come back to. My heart broke during Harvey's awkward encounters with his daughter and ex-wife. I cringed a little everytime Kate's phone rang and you know it's her equally lonely mother. I squirmed with Kate when her blind date went awry and she goes to the restroom, fighting off tears. In some of the last scenes in the film, Ms. Thompson again does what she does best: maintaining her composure in the face of rejection, hope in the face of disappointment. (Brings to mind that scene in Love Actually where she finds out her husband is having an affair.) We get to know their characters a little bit, but most of their individual histories are unsaid. And yet you can read every regret, every unsaid word and unperformed deed in Mr. Hoffman's and Ms. Thompson's faces.

The two leads make an unlikely pairing. And this is not your typical romantic comedy. But maybe that's why I liked it.

The DVD is coming out on Cinco de Mayo.


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