Women On Film – “Last Chance Harvey” – Susan Granger reviews

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With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, this wry romantic comedy about two lonely, middle-aged losers is filled with hearts and flowers.

Struggling jazz pianist-turned-commercial jingle-writer Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) knows his job is in peril when he takes off from Manhattan for a weekend in London to attend his estranged daughter’s wedding. Hurrying through Heathrow airport, he ignores Kate Walker (Emma Thompson), who’s taking a survey for the Office of National Statistics. But their paths cross again at a bar where befuddled Harvey is drowning his sorrows after learning that his daughter Susan (Liane Balaban) has chosen to have her stepfather (James Brolin) walk her down the aisle, and spinster-like Kate is fending off incessant phone calls from her demanding, overbearing mother (Eileen Atkins) who’s convinced her mysterious neighbor is a serial killer. As destiny would have it, Harvey misses his flight back to the States and is subsequently fired over the phone by his sleazy, impatient boss (Richard Schiff).

Gradually, despite a stumbling, awkward reticence on both their parts, a gentle, supportively comforting relationship between them grows, as Kate earnestly convinces Harvey he must overcome the hurt and humiliation of being so callously excluded from the ceremony and attend the upcoming reception, not only delivering a heartfelt toast but graciously dancing with his noxious ex-wife (Kathy Baker).

While British writer/director Joel Hopkins’ (“Jump Tomorrow”) bantering dialogue flows naturally with emotional honesty, he scores the most points for his spot-on casting. Teamed once before in “Stranger Than Fiction” (2006), Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson work together with a mature, disarming ease, evoking poignant memories of Paddy Chayefsky’s “Marty.” If only Thompson’s supportive character had been as fully delineated as Hoffman’s, the story would rise to another level entirely.

Nevertheless, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Last Chance Harvey” is a charming, sentimental 7, delightfully celebrating the hope for midlife love.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.