One reacts to Joel Hopkins’s Last Chance Harvey with about the same level of revulsion directed at its titular character by the people around him. Unbearably scored to within an inch of its bippity-boppity-booing life, the film follows Harvey, a commercial jingle impresario played by Dustin Hoffman, to London as he clumsily negotiates run-ins with friends and family on the eve of his estranged daughter’s wedding. His alienation from the group practically chills the air, conveyed largely through contrived physical confrontations between the man and a series of inanimate objects: the curtain in his hotel room, the metal security tag that was never removed from his suit jacket, and a bed of stones he stumbles over in an effort to answer a cellphone you’d think be bought only that morning given the way he’s shocked by its ring. Rather than shine a light on Harvey’s emotional toil, namely his regrets, this unbearably forced awkwardness registers only as a symptom of some vaguely detailed emotional retardation bound to be cured by the affections of the lovely Kate (Emma Thompson), whose banal life the film intermittingly peeks into until she and Harvey finally hit it off inside an airport restaurant. Thompson, a spry and spontaneous actress, is a pleasure to watch, even alongside the less intuitive Hoffman, but she clearly struggles to give life to a sadly underwritten, rather insulting role. Her character exists mostly to help rectify Harvey’s shortcomings, something she accomplishes with an absurd swiftness and precision, but Thompson has a few lovely scenes toward the end of the film during which her selfless Kate resists Hoffman’s come-ons. Of course, to get there you have to endure all sorts of foul rom-comery, from the friend who asks Kate for an audience-winking answer to a crossword puzzle (“Scum”!) to the mother (Eileen Atkins, embarrassingly wasted) who thinks her Polish next-door neighbor is barbequing people in a shed in his backyard. By film’s end, Harvey is ready to live even as you’re ready to die.
- Joel Hopkins
- Joel Hopkins
- Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Eileen Atkins, Liane Balaban, James Brolin, Kathy Baker
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: