Charm, Joy in Last Chance Harvey


It’s "Award" season in Hollywood.

This is the time of year when movies of "substance" finally make their way into some theaters across the country. Unfortunately, to Hollywood nowadays, "substance" more often than not means dark, depressing, nihilistic and/or violent.

But not always.

In most years, there are at least a couple of life-enhancing gems that somehow find their way into the mix…and our hearts.

Such is the case this year with Last Chance Harvey, which opened in New York and Los Angeles on Christmas Day and is scheduled to open around the rest of the country on January 23.

I don’t know if it will play in a theater near you in January but, if it does, grab all your adult friends and head to the theater!

I say "adult friends" not because of any sex or violence, but because the film deals with issues that will, I believe, appeal much more to baby boomers than younger people. That also makes it much more important for us to support the film, or it will disappear quickly. Harvey deserves a much better fate than that.

Last Chance Harvey stars the always-wonderful Dustin Hoffman as Harvey Shine, a 60-ish composer whose only income is derived from writing commercial jingles for advertisers. And he’s not doing all that great with that gig either. As he struggles to keep his job and dignity, his daughter is getting married in London where Harvey’s ex-wife and her much-more-successful new husband also live.

Also living in London is Kate Walker (played by the also always-wonderful Emma Thompson). Kate is unmarried, lonely and feels totally out of place in the "singles" world.

Harvey has been estranged from his daughter for quite some time and is very nervous, with good reason, about how he will be welcomed by his daughter, her fiance, his ex-wife and others. As a very distracted Harvey deplanes in London to attend his daughter’s wedding, he briefly meets and somewhat brusquely rebukes Kate, who works for the airline and is taking a survey of arriving passengers.

Somehow, however, they do meet again and….

OK, there’s absolutely nothing unpredictable about how the film ends. And that’s part of its joy and charm. In this kind of film, the plot is really somewhat superfluous anyway. We’re not going to be introduced to two people with whom we fall in love and then be robbed of the ending for which we are rooting all along. (Unless, of course, it’s a Coen Brothers film or some other dark, cynical Hollywood exercise. I guarantee you that I will never lead you to a film that delights in crushing your hopes.)

Films like Harvey are all about the characters. Do we relate to and care about them and do the actors make the characters come to life in our hearts?

In Harvey, the answers are yes…and yes!

The charm and joy in Harvey derive from our recognition of where both Harvey and Kate find themselves in life. Somewhat disillusioned. Out of synch with the world around them. Is this where my life was leading me? I didn’t think I would end up alone. Is this really "it," then? Am I the person that those whom I have disappointed think I am? Don’t I still deserve one last chance at having all my dreams come true? It can happen at my age. I know it can. I just know it can. I’m right, aren’t I? Aren’t I?

And then, unsuspecting, you turn that one corner, walk into that one restaurant, and come face to face with your dream.

Just like that.

If you’ve experienced that in your life, Harvey will remind you of how lucky you are.

It happens every day.

It happened to me.

It happens to Harvey and Kate.

And, if you so desire, you’re next.

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  1. I agree 101 % with you about this movie… having been to London on vacation, my wife and I fell in love with Big Ben and of course London in general. The movie was wonderful and it renewed my faith in that movie produces and authors can creae movies that warm your heart and soul, and show that true love–even if its the second time around for some–cn still happen. I was lucky–it/love happened to me, and it does happen every day..whether your straight –or gay, love is a powerful force in our lives, and am lucky that I found it in my wife Linda…Thanks for a wonderful review of a great movie..


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