Dustin Hoffman hasn't done much of note in recent years, but he storms his way back onto the scene in a big way with Last Chance Harvey, a touching, mesmerizing romantic drama that also stars Emma Thompson.
Hoffman stars as the title character, a struggling ad musician who has traveled to London for his daughter's wedding. Having grown apart from his daughter in recent years, he finds that he has very little to talk about with her, his family and everyone else, and when he does, he typically embarrasses himself. But on the day of the wedding, he learns that his daughter prefers to have her stepdad give her away – and that he's been fired. As most would do, he hits the bars and forms an unlikely friendship with a standoffish woman named Kate. They spend the rest of the day together and a relationship is formed, but is what they have together real?
Hoffman delivers his finest performance since Rain Man as the nervously awkward, Death of a Salesmanesque Harvey. He is both charming and disastrous at the same time, and you can both feel his pain and understand why his family has distanced itself from him (or he from them). In other years, Hoffman's performance would be considered Oscar worthy, but given the understated nature of the film, it's not surprising that he was overlooked (and, frankly, there has been tough competition in recent years).
Thompson keeps up with Hoffman pace for pace, delivering an equally sweet and believable performance. At 50 years old, she still looks great and proves that romantic films are not best served young.
And that's just it. With all of the silly romantic movies that come out every year, it's Last Chance Harvey that is more entertaining, more heartwarming and more captivating. Harvey is superbly well done and yet it looks effortless; writer-director Joel Hopkins has made a masterful film, though most people won't even notice: it flows so well and the characters interact so believably that there isn't anything to remind us that this is simply a production.
For anyone who has a heart and who likes good movies, Last Chance Harvey is a worthwhile choice; it's an excellent picture and one of the best films of 2008.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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