Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Last Chance to see Last Chance Harvey

Sometimes Christmas movies do better in the spring, and this is one such movie. Released on Christmas day, but still playing in some theaters (having taken in a modest $14 million), this movie keeps on percolating along, pleasing one audience after another. In a season of bad, mad, and sad movies, this one will bring a smile to your face, and perhaps as well a tear to your eyes.

Harvey Shine very believably played by Dustin Hoffman is a dying breed--- he is a jingle writer (think Barry Manilow before he had his first big hit-- 'Mandy'), and his boss (Richard Schiff, late of West Wing fame) is trying to tell him his career is over. Harvey is going to London for his daughter's wedding, and its going to be awkward, as Harvey's wife has remarried, and Harvey has hardly kept in proper touch with his daughter, never mind his ex-wife. He's been too busy writing jingles (though he longs to have been a good jazz pianist).

Enter fetching, though middle-aged, Kate Walker (Emma Thompson), who lives with her Mum, and has a job at Heathrow trying to interview people about their traveling experiences and why they are coming to London. This is no easy job, getting people to stop for such an interview. I would know. One time when I was twiddling my thumbs in the Sydney airport Down Under, I was sequestered by a relentless lady who needed to make her quota for the day. She was more than a little persistent.

Kate Walker is a woman tired of being disappointed by men, and a woman who finds it easy just settling for less than life's best for her, though she longs for love. Enter Harvey Shine who: 1) just learned he was fired; 2) went to his daughter's wedding and felt like a total fifth wheel, as his daughter asked her new step father to walk her down the aisle; and 3) he missed his flight back to New York to try and argue his way back into a job. That's a truly bad day, and as luck would have it, Kate is in the same bar at the airport, having a bad day of her own.

The romance that buds over the conversations they begin having in this bar progresses slowly, steadily, and you do not have the ridiculous scenario of them hopping right into bed before they know each other well. In other words, they do not become 'barely' acquainted whilst they are still barely acquainted, which is a good rule for one and all. In fact, we never get to the bedroom in this movie, and it is all the more touching, believable, and enjoyable for it. Hooray-- a movie that doesn't need to come on like a cheap date, too desperate to please.

I love the acting craft that both Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman (has he ever played a romantic lead before?) bring to films, and if there was nothing more to this brief (92 minutes) film, it would be well worth seeing for that reason alone. It is hard to find good romantic films for those over 30, but this is a fine one and well worth seeing. Skip Watchmen as far too violent, sadistic, nihilistic, and sexually explicit, and go see "Last Chance Harvey" instead of "Super Heroes who aren't and the Refugee from the Blue Man group".

This movie is actually about having a second or at least a last chance in life for romance. It does deal with the serious issue of broken families and the havoc divorce, abortion, and other such grave severings cause for the children of divorce. This is a low budget movie which will move you in various good ways, and if you love London like I do, you'll enjoy the scenery as well. Imagine that--- a movie that doesn't require car chases, bedroom scenes, action, action, action to entertain a person. Like Harvey, it may be a dying breed, but is worth a jingle if you have the time.


Paul W said...

Hi Ben

I saw the Watchmen with a friend on Sunday afternoon in Wellington, New Zealand. I wish I hadn't. Your assessment is on the money: "too violent, sadistic, nihilistic, and sexually explicit."

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Paul: I am heading to the land of the Kiwis to Auckland the last week of July and first week of August. Contact Richard Waugh for scheduling. Looking forward to properly seeing the land of the Lord of the Rings.


Ben Witherington said...

P.S. Stanford I did do econ at Carolina, low these many years ago.