Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Last Chance Harvey: Worth a Look

Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson in Last Chance Harvey

There are several reasons to relax and enjoy this movie. It’s a credible, low-key love story between two not-very-young-anymore people. Kate, the 50-something female protagonist, has a workaday job at Heathrow Airport interviewing travelers for the British National Bureau of Statistics. Harvey is a somewhat older and behind-the-times ad man from New York rushing through the airport to his daughter’s wedding, where he plans to turn around as soon as possible to get back to a crucial Monday morning business appointment (his “last chance” to please an antsy client). What makes the story of their meeting so likable?

For one thing, Kate and Harvey look and act their ages. Kudos and thanks to Emma Thompson for doing her bit in this film to liberate the modern woman from the crushing expectation that she must retain the same dress size from adolescence to grave. Henry, in his rumpled trench coat, is refreshingly far from a glamorous leading man. Their appeal is more than skin deep.

Their appeal is in their disappointments and their dreams. Harvey prefers jazz piano to the jingles he writes for his advertising accounts. Kate mourns the child she aborted as a college student: “I didn’t think twice about it. That’s what smart girls did.” But, she tells Harvey, she has often wondered, if they—since the mother who does not bear her child to term often does not know whether it is a he or she it is understandable why the pronoun they sneaks in—were clever, or beautiful, or neurotic.

The appeal of their love story also lies in their fears. Harvey is saddened by the loss of his marriage, and the estrangement of his daughter, to the point that he nearly abdicates his duties as father of the bride. Kate is terrified of involvement, telling Harvey point blank, that the end will come, and bring pain along with it.

How do things develop toward the expected happy ending? Kate tells Harvey to act like a father, and drags him to his daughter’s wedding reception. Harvey tells Kate that he’s not giving up. And the viewer is left with the satisfying feeling that it all may work out.

No comments: