Monday, February 02, 2009

Review: ‘Last Chance Harvey’

“Why don't you kiss her instead of talking her to death?”

“Want me to kiss her, huh?”

“Aw, youth is wasted on the wrong people!”

It’s A Wonderful Life – 1946

Watching Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson in the enchanting, middle age romance, ‘Last Chance Harvey’ is a bit like that quote from ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’. Halfway through the film – after nearly 60 minutes of mesmerizing interaction between two extraordinarily gifted actors, I found myself wanting the characters to finally kiss rather than talk themselves to death! But then I realized the point was the utter romance of their developing relationship and not the climax of that relationship in the kiss; so youth, in this case, is not wasted on the wrong people.

After doing so many supporting roles for the past few years, it was nice to see Hoffman back in the lead where he really belongs. Even as an aging leading man, Hoffman shows us that he still has the chops to play a romantic lead with passion and power. Harvey is a struggling commercial jingle writer slowly being replaced by computer generated music; Harvey is also a frustrated jazz pianist, who is not without talent but never ‘good enough’. Harvey finds himself in London for the wedding of his estranged daughter who seems to have a much closer relationship with her step-father (the ever dashing James Brolin).

While streaking through Heathrow airport, Harvey has the inevitable first meeting with Kate (Emma Thompson) as she unsuccessfully tries to solicit Harvey with a questionnaire. Kate herself is single and not liking it at all. Doomed to an existence of caring for her clingy mother who is convinced she is living next door to a mass murderer (a simply hilarious side story) and monitoring Kate’s every move. In this film, Thompson once again proves just how marvelous she is as you can read the gloom in her eyes; until she lights up with Harvey that is and the screen lights up as well with her every emotion.

Once they meet and their story progresses, the development is natural and the feelings are pure. Both Hoffman and Thompson play the characters with a quiet and bemused sincerity; where most actors of this age are going for over the top (think Pacino). Hoffman and Thompson are not only giving the characters a wink and a smile, they are giving the audience a wink and a smile.

Four Stars ****

Note - this will be published in this week's New Lenox Patriot! The link will follow!

No comments: