Divorced American composer Harvey Shine (Hoffman) arrives in London for his daughters wedding to discover her stepfather is giving her away. Single Brit Kate Walker (Thompson) works at the airport and looks after her elderly mother. The two meet, share t
A difficult sell, mature romantic-comedies demand heavyweight stars. With two Oscars apiece, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are certainly that. Having barely brushed shoulders in Stranger Than Fiction, the pair have a chance to get cosy in this comedy-drama that takes place over the course of a couple of days.
Initially, it’s not the best phase in Harvey’s life. In London for his daughter’s wedding, he’s been instructed to “take his time” by his boss — younger composers are fast filling his shoes. Then comes the big blow: daughter Susan (Liane Balaban) wants her stepfather, not Harvey, to give her away.
Desperate to cling onto what little he has left, Harvey tries to fly back to save his job, but ends up wallowing in Scotch at the airport. “That’ll help,” quips nearby Kate (Thompson) sarcastically, and so an afternoon of gently flirtatious banter is born. The world-weary pair find comfort in each other, his ambition, persistence and near-desperation cutting through her dry despondency. It’s the American Dreamer versus the self-deprecating Brit — and in the land of romantic comedies, they make a good pair.
Hoffman is an enjoyable lead, gleaning laughs from trivial misfortunes such as a security tag still attached to a suit jacket. But it’s Thompson that really shines, imbuing every line with depth and pathos — lines that could have been thrown away by other mouths. There’s a telling early scene in which Kate has a blind date in the pub with a younger man, Simon (Patrick Baladi). She readily admits defeat when his lively friends arrive, babbling a language she doesn’t understand. But Kate’s hangdog manner is offset by a quick wit and a desire to learn. Like Harvey, Kate is underestimated by people who judge by age.
All this, of course, positions Last Chance Harvey as ideal for older audiences who feel overlooked. The message is clear: there is life after divorce, and there is hope for a single woman approaching 50. Last Chance Harvey is a brief but slow-paced film with no grand romance, no tension, no tragedy. It recalls Sleepless In Seattle and Four Weddings And A Funeral, but it doesn’t have the suspense or energy to compete. It’s cute, but it’s not compelling. In fact, like Hoffman himself, Last Chance Harvey is short, but very sweet.
Undemanding, observant and beautifully performed, this is Richard Curtis-lite with added reassurance: no challenging questions here.