Saturday, January 17, 2009
Last Chance Harvey (2008)
Over the last few years, Dustin Hoffman has been quietly giving some of the best performances of his career. As the mob boss in Confidence (2003), he was sinister in new and delightful ways. He was a big part of what made viewers give in to the delicious nonsense of I ♥ Huckabees (2004). And in the titular role in Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (2007) he was playful and eminently entertaining. So Alan Smithee came into Last Chance Harvey with high hopes. The film has problems, but it is still much better than one might suspect.
The first half hour deftly depicts just how disappointing and humiliating life is for most people, most of the time. In the central love story, Hoffman and Emma Thompson play off each other well, and though Alan Smithee isn't sure he ever quite believed them as a couple, he cannot deny he was entertained. Refreshingly, the film takes place in a world much closer to the real one than to the world of Romantic Comedy. One example: both main characters have normal jobs just like real people; there are no architects, fashion designers, writers, or art gallery owners in the entire film!
The film is in "limited release," which in this case means it is playing in just 16 theaters, because movies are a business, and no one wants to see a movie about old people. Luckily, Alan Smithee lives in a large metropolis in which four of those theaters are located. Readers are encouraged to add it their Netflix queue (Availability Unknown).