Dustin Hoffman is the titular Harvey, a morose jingle composer who, with his job hanging by a thread, arrives in London for his daughter’s wedding. He is a complete outsider at the rehearsal dinner, and feels even more cut off when his daughter informs him that she wants her stepfather to give her away. Meanwhile, the scarcely more cheerful Emma Thompson spends her time being set up for disastrous blind dates and being constantly harangued on the phone by her mother. These two losers at the game of love meet, and something blossoms between them.
And that is really about it as far as plot goes. The script is so insubstantial that it threatens to waft away on the first gentle breeze. The film is quite watchable, however, and that is due to the sheer force of its leads. They make the enterprise seem considerably more substantive than it is, their pained expressions conveying worlds to us. The film is at its strongest when it sits back and lets the two banter, and the relationship that develops feels easy and natural. It is all the more disappointing, therefore, that writer/director Joel Hopkins feels it necessary to shoehorn in the obligatory Romantic Comedy Third Act Falling Out by the most contrived and Deus Ex Machina-like of means. This is a turn of events that is a poke in the eye to any viewer who thought his/her intelligence was going to be respected.
Very nice stuff. The original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen apect ratio is preserved. The grain is undetectable, the edge enhancement not a problem, and the colours are excellent. Blacks and flesh tones are strong without being unnatural, and the contrasts are superb. Without being ostentatious, the film is a pleasure to look at, so pats on the back all around here.
The 5.1 soundtrack works very effectively at creating an environment. So whether we are at a wedding reception, a busy airport, or a pub, the hubbub of activity resonates on all sides. The score is nicely rendered, but, in the early goings, has a tendency to drown out the dialogue. Whether the situation improves or my ears adjusted, I’m not sure, but there were some real problems making out what the characters were saying during the first five minutes or so.
Commentary Track: Hoffman (in a New York studio) joins Thompson and Hopkins (based in London) for the commentary. The effect of this track is not unlike that of the performances: the discussion is so articulate and thoughtful that it has more going on than the film itself.
“An Unconventional Love Story: The Making of Last Chance Harvey”: (16:28) A fairly standard promo piece, that nonetheless articulates the worthwhile goals the filmmakers had, and suggests that many of the conversations between the leads were improvised.
Theatrical Trailer. Plus a clutch of other trailers.
A very likable film, though also very slight, held together by a pair of remarkable performances.