Thoroughly amiable, Last Chance Harvey isn’t so much a tale about finding love in the latter years as it is a collection of moments – some sweet and well-written, some utterly clichéd. The film owes a lot to its stars, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, neither of whom are capable of turning in an uninteresting performance. One gets the sense that this project would’ve ended up on the straight-to-DVD or the unseen indie track without them, and it’s not like audiences would’ve been missing a whole lot. Still, Last Chance Harvey tends to succeed becomes it aims its sights low, not looking to accomplish much aside from giving the two leads ample opportunity to interact.
Hoffman stars as Harvey Shine, a jingle writer whose days of being non-expendable are quickly coming to an end. He travels to London to attend his daughter Susan’s (Liane Balaban) wedding, but he’s out of sorts from the moment he gets there, wearing a brand new suit with the security device still attached and finding himself in awkward encounters with his ex-wife Jean (Kathy Baker) and her husband Brian (James Brolin). When his daughter informs him that she’d prefer if her stepfather gave her away at the wedding, it’s just the cherry on top of the rejection sundae.
Meanwhile, Kate Walker (Thompson) is in a similar state of despair, getting set up on an awkward blind date and being constantly bothered by her increasingly paranoid mother. She conducts surveys at the airport, but there’s not much in her life to look forward to.
Neither of these characters are terribly interesting, with writer/director Joel Hopkins throwing them into a script full of situations without ever really giving the audience a sense of who they are. It doesn’t take too long before Harvey and Kate are brought together in a rather unmemorable meeting, but their scenes get better as the film progresses, with the two traipsing all over London with one another. Kate eventually convinces Harvey to head back to his daughter’s wedding reception, and he convinces her to come along. The more time they spend with one another, the more they enjoy having someone to share life with for the first time in a long time.
While Last Chance Harvey is sort of a romantic comedy for the past-middle-age set, it doesn’t really bother with typical rom-com script structure – which you may consider a good or bad thing. As tired as the genre is, the conflicts in this script are so minor, the film never has much of a sense of drive, simply meandering along agreeably for 90 minutes. Last Chance Harvey is extremely easy to digest, but an impish Hoffman and a sympathetic Thompson keep things charming and sweet. This will never be considered a career highlight for either, but they’ve got chemistry to spare.
The two-disc DVD contains the film presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, along with a dull making-of featurette that proclaims the film is an “unconventional love story” and a full-length audio commentary with Hoffman, Thompson, and Hopkins on the first disc. The second is simply the full-frame version of the film.