Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, 92 minutes
Hoffman, Thompson make a charming pair in the sweetly familiar rom com "Harvey"
You'll want to take a chance on the engaging and sweet "Last Chance Harvey." Yes, you've seen this romantic comedy before, but not with Oscar-winners Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, who share some charming, relaxed moments, making "Harvey" far more entertaining and plausible than it really should be. If you want something far more wistful than "Benjamin Button" or "The Reader," then Harvey is your movie, even if it is a romantic comedy for the older set (at a recent advance screening, my friends noticed how many - and I say this lightly - older people - there were in attendance).
Hoffman plays Harvey Shine, a bit of a rumpled older fellow in London for his daughter's wedding. He's a musician who writes commercial jingles, but he's on the verge of losing his job. On top of that, his relationship with daughter Susan (the radiant but unknown Liane Balaban) and ex-wife (Kathy Baker) is friendly but estranged, and she asks her stepfather (a stauesque James Brolin) to give her away.
While in the airport in London, he comes across airport worker Kate Walker (Thompson), a lonely middle-aged single woman who must take of her aging mother (Eileen Atkins), who seems to constantly call her about something. They strike up meaningful conversation in the London airport, and in a short time unexpectedly realize they may be falling for each other.
One difference with the charming "Last Chance Harvey" is the fact that it takes itself less seriously than the average romantic comedy in this genre, with two people who don't as much declare their love for each other as much as they just seem to go together. Newcomer Joel Hopkins (this is his second full-length film) takes directing and writing credit for "Harvey," but there really isn't much of that needed for the talented leads, who supposedly improvised much of their dialogue and carry the film with their intelligent but often witty interchanges.
The story itself is thin and familiar, with echoes of Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" in its extended conversational tone and time frame, but even more resembles (and yes, I'm digging way back here) the 1984 Streep-DeNiro romance "Falling in Love," yet Hoffman and Thompson make for a more accessible couple. While Hoffman is admittedly a little old for romantic comedy (no worries - no sex scenes here), he still has a sense of vulnerability and sharp timing that makes him likable after all these years.
Each have their own touchingly memorable scenes: Hoffman's in his toast to his newly married daughter and Thompson speaking of the past she's lost. Both give emotional resonance to lonely, awkward people that romance often overlooks. Both are strong enough actors to rise above the predictability and thinness of the script, seemingly determined to keep "Harvey" away from the icky sappiness that often creeps into these types of movies. Thompson and Hoffman both are at ease with each other; their performances are relaxed and largely unrevealing, but each still very engaging.
"Last Chance Harvey" is a sweet, enjoyable movie that ends on a lighter note, and without giving too much away - ends as you might expect it to - with two people sharing meaningful moments. "Harvey" a perfectly nice date movie and you'll be glad you shared your time with them too.