Once in a while, we come across an obscure movie that's played by top-rate actors... and it makes us wonder why the movie is not that well-known. I watched one such movie last night and it is a gem.
Last Chance Harvey stars two Oscar-winning actors in the lead roles, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. It tells the story of a jingle-writing musician, Harvey Shine (played by Hoffman) facing a crisis in his career. He reluctantly goes to London to attend the wedding of his estranged daughter but his mind is constantly on his work because of the fear that he might lose his job to other younger guys.
Thompson plays Kate Walker, a single woman who works for the British Public Statistics Agency. Her boring job involves handling questionnaires to arriving passengers at Heathrow Airport. On one such occasion, she approaches Harvey who has just got off the plane from New York but he rudely brushes her off. After work, Kate goes to a blind date that was arranged by a colleague but the date turned out to be a spoiler.
Harvey attends the pre-wedding dinner at a restaurant but his presence was awkwardly received. Things did not get any better when after dinner, his daughter Susan tells him that she wants her step-father to give her away at the wedding tomorrow.
Harvey attends the wedding ceremony the next morning but leaves immediately after the vows were exchanged. He wants to hurry back to the US to close a business contract but gets caught in the London traffic jam that caused him to miss his flight. He calls his boss in New York only to be told that the account is being handled by someone else and that Harvey is now no longer needed.
Harvey walks to the airport bar and has a few shots of whisky to drown his sorrows. He notices a lone woman reading a book at a nearby table and realized that it is the same questionnaire lady that he avoided earlier. He strikes up a conversation by first apologizing for his rude manner. Kate does not recognize him but accepts his apology anyway just to cut the conversation short. The first few exchanges of lines were testy but it turned to be more cordial when Harvey's answer of how shitty his day has been convinced Kate that his day was worse than hers. The casual conversation continued over lunch and included a short but interesting discussion on the British phrase of `stiff upper lip'.
The friendship continues with a walk along the Thames River in London. Kate convinces Harvey to go to his daughter's wedding reception but Harvey will only go if Kate agrees to come along. At the reception, Harvey redeems himself by delivering a short but moving speech as the father-of-the-bride. The movie then continues with events that unfold as the friendship between Harvey and Kate develops.
Last Chance Harvey is a romantic movie that succeeds purely on the acting strength of the two lead characters. There is no action scene whatsoever... just dialogue, facial expressions and gestures. It would be a boring movie for some but I loved it. It is a story of having the chance to fall in love again. No matter how old you are. Yes... I am a sentimental old fool sometimes.
If you need a good pick-me-up sort of movie to get over any disappointment or despair, do watch this one. Get the DVD or catch it when it makes its appearance on Astro.
Last Chance Harvey (December 2008)
Written and Directed by Joel Hopkins
Duration : 1 hr 28 min.