Elaine at the movies

Elaine Blum

We are heading into the summer months, which for some reason are synonymous with heavy trafficking of action-packed blockbusters in the theaters. I, for one, have had enough high intensity for a few weeks. Enter “Last Chance Harvey,” a subtle, low-key comedy.
The obvious reason to see this movie is that it boasts two fantastically gifted leading actors, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson.
Audiences recognize Hoffman from past films such as “Tootsie,” “Rain Man,” and more recently, “I Heart Huckabees.”
Thompson delivers similarly outstanding performances in “Angels in America” and “Love Actually.” Finally, to see both actors in one go, I highly recommend “Stranger Than Fiction.”
In “Last Chance Harvey,” both Hoffman and Thompson deliver performances that live up to their impressive bills. Hoffman plays the title character, Harvey, who is in London for his daughter’s wedding. While visiting, Hoffman meets Kate, played by Thompson, who works as a human-interest surveyor at the local airport.
Audiences immediately recognize that both characters are rather lonely. We see Thompson maneuver through a disastrous blind date. We also see Hoffman play phone tag with several people, learning that he is quite out of the loop on plans for his daughter’s wedding. Both characters are endearingly lonely and awkward, though I have yet to decide whether it is comforting or alarming to know that one does not necessarily grow out of these traits with age.
With this disheartening setup, audiences cheer when Hoffman and Thompson finally unite. The chemistry between Hoffman and Thompson quite obviously makes this movie. Both characters thoroughly have each other’s number and can effectively push each other’s buttons. The result is a satisfying interplay between the two that is worth the depressing build-up.
The balance of humor and seriousness works well for the film. In comparison to numerous other comedies, this film derives its laughs from finding humor in everyday situations. It avoids unrealistic or over-the-top situations meant to force a laugh. Instead, it focuses on the humor implicit in human interaction. This yields a subtler – and often more enjoyable – comedy.
Hoffman and Thompson are perfect fits for delivering this type of humor. They exude charm and their styles and energy compliment each other well. Furthermore, the end is simple and satisfying, neither picture-perfect nor jarring. In short, this film provides a perfectly calm reprieve from the tumultuous action flicks that currently dominate big-screens. Grab a friend, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy this more subtle comedy.