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Rated 3.02 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Never Too Late
by Betty Jo Tucker

Falling in love can happen at any age. Last Chance Harvey emphasizes this romantic theme while having a bit of fun doing it. Playing two lonely middle-aged people who find each other during some tough times in their lives, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson may look ill-suited for each other here, but they deliver the goods with believability and charm. Who would expect these two actors to be the most fascinating on-screen couple during 2008?     

Hoffman portrays Harvey Shine, a man disappointed with the way his career has turned out. Although quite talented as a composer and pianist, he’s ended up writing jingles for commercials. And his boss (Richard Schiff) hints about bad things to come. On the personal side, Harvey’s relationship with his estranged daughter (Liane Balaban) couldn’t get much worse. To attend her wedding, he must leave New York City --during what he insists is a crucial time for his job --and travel to England.  After arriving across the pond, Harvey faces the humiliation of being the odd-man out at his own daughter’s nuptial activities.

Luckily, our sad-sack hero soon meets Kate Walker (Thompson), a woman who spends most of the time answering calls from her quirky mother (Eileen Atkins). Mom can’t seem to stop pestering Kate about her single status. Unfortunately, Kate’s latest blind date resulted in considerable embarrassment for her --so she’s not in a very happy emotional state when Harvey tries to start up a conversation with her.    

These two walking wounded believe they are losers and that love has passed them by.  However, their amusing interactions and shared misery help them establish a strong bond, one that offers them a chance for happiness. Despite the painful and, of course, humorous obstacles standing in their way, will they be daring enough to risk being together as a couple?    

Hoffman and Thompson give low-key performances as the unlikely Harvey/Kate duo. But they are a treat to watch! Because of their brilliant acting skills, it’s easy to feel empathy for the unhappy characters they portray. Hoffman lends Harvey an almost pathetic demeanor during certain parts of the film, and Thompson makes Kate someone we care for from the very beginning. She’s a real pro at changing expressions in the blink of an eye, which serves her well in various interactions with Hoffman. Thompson towers over Hoffman, so they look like Mutt and Jeff. This striking visual reinforces the idea that Harvey and Kate may not be right for each other. And yet a surprising Hoffman/Thompson chemistry comes across in practically every one of their scenes together.    

Applause also to writer/director Joel Hopkins (Jorge) for filling Last Chance Harvey with subtle humor and witty dialogue as well as for allowing important sequences to run longer than we see in most romantic comedies today. We need time to get to know how Harvey and Kate relate to one another, so extended conversations seem very appropriate.  

Last Chance Harvey earns a well-deserved spot on my list of favorite 2008 films.

(Released by Overture Films and rated “PG-13” for brief strong language.)

NOTE:  This film was released on a limited basis on Christmas Day and will open wide in January, 2009.

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