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</script></div>{/googleAds}There are times more often than not - when a romantic notion in film or the idea behind the ever ambitious classic romance story - can never successfully be projected on-screen between two actors in this day and age. Maybe it's their inexperience within their own walks of life or maybe it is due to a severe unfamiliarity with the script or even their own characters that they are hired to play; maybe, even, it feels too forced and unnatural, but for whatever reason, pulling off a strong story of believable romance is one thing Hollywood hasn't done consistently well since the Capra-era of filmmaking. Joel Hopkins' Last Chance Harvey; however, is a prime example of the pure magic that can be created in Hollywood when professional actors and directors do their jobs and they do it well.

Dustin Hoffman, in a tailor-made role for his acting sensibilities, is devastatingly broken and, somehow still honestly charming if not a little aloof - as Harvey Shine, a man who has suffered through his fair share of failed relationships while sacrificing all including his ex-wife (Kathy Baker) who is now remarried and living in England with Brian (James Brolin) and now-grown daughter (Liane Balaban) for an unsatisfying career in writing commercial jingles that is threatening to throw him over as he nears the age of retirement. Quite simply, he is a talented man deserving of love and respect, but finds the things he desires most are in short supply. On the eve of his departure for his daughter's wedding in England, Harvey is told by his boss, Marvin (the very welcomed presence of the wonderful Richard Schiff), that his job is in jeopardy if he is not successful with this final jingle pitch; this is his last chance at securing a place for himself in their company. Harvey knows this, he feels it completely, but knows that he has to be there for his daughter's wedding; a daughter he is all but nearly estranged from.

Last Chance HarveyHarvey's arrival is London is marred by a series of unfortunate events, both personal and job-related, that remind him of just how out of place he is in his own life; he is a complete stranger in local and even among family members. Hoffman's touching performance in these scenes is quite remarkable and sentimental and, to this reviewer's sensibilities, leaves one to wonder just where exactly the Academy was for Hoffman's performance; it is truly a touching role with some very fine and often very quiet and uniquely subtle moments between Hoffman and the camera. You can tell that he is at ease and his natural instincts as an actor are razor sharp; he is at one with this character and the camera trusts his performance.

But this is not a one-man film, and truly Joel Hopkins' screenplay is made all that stronger by a rich performance from Emma Thompson. Thompson plays Kate Walker, a single woman with a curiously questioning and, at times, unintentionally burdensome mother (a marvelous Eileen Atkins) who, when it comes to relationships, is equally on the same level as Harvey; she just doesn't fit in anywhere and often leaves parties or other social gatherings feeling inadequate and extremely lonely with only her mother to care for. It seems she is waiting for something or someone to shake her out what is familiar even though she is in the autumn of her life. It is only when she finally meets up with Harvey after several close encounters that play out nicely that her needs are finally awoken or realized.

These two leads, Hoffman and Thompson, and their chemistry together (after all, this is a reunion of sorts for the two leads after Marc Forster's superb Stranger than Fiction) sells this film; it is natural to see them play off each other and simply talk, react, and then talk some more about their lives and their own separate desires. It is clear what is happening maybe not to each other but each actor sells it to the audience well. Yet, it is Hopkins' skill behind the camera his confidence in his actors that permeates the film in its entirety; it is charmingly photographed and firmly realized. Even in its weaker moments, the film excels at being grounded in a reality created by the talents of actor and actress. Simply put, there are moments in Last Chance Harvey that are pure Tracy/Hepburn and that isn't such a bad thing for Hollywood, knee-deep in an oversaturation of Nicholas Sparks' fatty oils, to be reminded of from time to time.

Component Grades
5 Stars
5 Stars
DVD Experience
5 Stars


Blu-ray Details:

Screen Formats: 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; making-of featurette; "Lose Myself" music video by Ms. Lauryn Hill; original short "The ChubbChubbs Save Xmas".


* Commentary
o Feature-length commentary track with writer/director Joel Hopkins and Hoffman and Thompson.
* Featurettes
o An Unconventional Love Story
* BD-Live
* The film's original Theatrical Trailer (2:33)

Number of Discs: 2 with Keepcase Packaging