Sunday, March 01, 2009

B.W. At The Movies: Last Chance Harvey

Come on - Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson? In the same movie? Of course it's going to be great! Dustin Hoffman is an American treasure. Emma Thompson is a British treasure. The only trick is how to get them together.

Of course - have Dustin's daughter get married in London. On the worst day of Dustin's life. And find a way for him to bump into Emma and rescue his soul.

That's the gist of a classy little movie called Last Chance Harvey, which I recommended as our Saturday night date even though I knew almost nothing about it. I vaguely understood the film had a solid performance by Hoffman, and when I heard Thompson was his co-star I needed to see it. I've had a thing for Emma ever since she stole my heart as (of all things) Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing back in '93. But I couldn't remember the name of this film — I kept wanting to call it Bad Hat Harry, which I knew was something else.

Be that as it may: Harvey Shine is an aging jingle writer whose career is teetering on the edge. He flies into Heathrow Airport on his way to his daughter's wedding and blows off Kate Walker the survey taker (more on her later). Several scenes full of awkward moments later, Harvey's daughter is telling him that she wants her stepfather to give her away at the altar. The wedding happens, and a crushed Harvey plans to skip the reception and fly back to New York. But he misses the plane and is fired. Devastated, he slinks into the airport bar/grille, where Kate — who meanwhile has endured an unpleasant blind date and several awkward moments with her slightly askew mother — is taking her lunch break. The rest is history.

Last Chance Harvey is not a groundbreaking movie. Its plot twists and turns are standard romantic comedy fare, but they ring true, and maybe that's why I like this film so much: It rings true. We have all had the worst day of our lives and searing heartbreak and lived to tell the tale. We know Harvey and Kate, because we've been there or somewhere like it, and we root for them despite ourselves. Early on in the story, I turned to Sweetie and said, "Poor Dustin. But don't worry, he's going to get Emma by the end of the movie." Of course it has a happy ending, or at least a hopeful one. Great romantic comedies almost always do.

And that's what surprised me most about this gentle little movie, even though with Dustin and Emma I knew it had to be. It really is great. Really.

P.S. The listing on Last Chance Harvey a link to this article called "The 17 Best Romantic Comedies of this Decade." The list has enough gems — including a totally appropriate choice for #1 — that I'm going to try to see the handful of films I haven't seen yet. I've seen and thoroughly recommend #s 1, 4, 5, 9, 10 and 17.

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Anonymous Tom Ender said...

I suspect you'll like Amélie; I did. I've seen a few of the others. I agree completely about their number one pick.

3:38 AM  
Anonymous Happy Curmudgeon said...

I liked this movie, too, and for the same reasons. Of course, having Emma say my name over and over was a big turn on as well. :)

9:21 PM  
Anonymous lewlew said...

It's an interesting list. I haven't watched all the movies on it, so I'll check some of them out.

I did not like High Fidelity (except for Jack Black's small role as Cusack's Record Store co-worker) at all; too much whining, even for a Cusack film. I like odd movies, seek them out actually. I found Punk-Drunk Love to be a snooze-fest.

Like Tom, I loved Amelie. The subtitles melted away as I watched the movie. The number one pick, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, is a luscious film. Carrey's role in Yes Man, the spirit of the role, reminds me a little of his performance in Eternal Sunshine.

If you'd like to watch a rom-com with John Cusack in it, I recommend Grosse Point Blank. Much better film, in my opinion.

2:49 PM  

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