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Massawyrm shrugs at LAST CHANCE HARVEY...

Hola all. Massawyrm here. Last Chance Harvey is like a bad Jello-shot; all the right ingredients are present and accounted for, and they’ve been assembled in just the right quantities. But for some inexplicable reason, be it the room temperature or the wobble of the earth or Mercury being in retrograde…it just doesn’t gel. No matter how perfect every element is, it just never comes together. And what’s left is syrupy, thin and entirely uninteresting. I wanted to like this film, really I did. Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson last appeared together in the magical Stranger than Fiction, and I really looked forward to seeing that chemistry work once again. But it just doesn’t. There’s nothing that this film specifically does wrong either. Examined piece by piece, each element seems to be in fine working order. Hoffman is as likable as always, perfectly playing the competent, but unknowingly buffoonish father figure who is just plain down on his luck. Emma Thompson is perfectly nailing the aging spinster who has worked very hard to convince herself that everything is just fine and that she simply doesn’t deserve to be happy. Then the two are surrounded by a bevy of fantastic character actors and let loose to fall in love in what can almost be likened to Before Sunrise for the August to December crowd. But it just doesn’t work. It’s never bad. It’s never unlikable. It just never clicks. I LOVE romantic comedies. I eat ‘em up with a spoon. I especially love finely crafted ones with unusual leads or bizarre situations. But a rom/com needs to either make you want to fall in love or make you thankful for the love you have, and if you can’t make a softie like me even the slightest bit warm and fuzzy (when that is clearly your goal) you’re doing something wrong. The film is about Harvey, a musician getting on in years who was never good enough to make it – only good enough to make jingles for floor wax. When his daughter decides to get married in London, he takes off for the weekend only to be forced to confront his ex-wife who is now living happier than ever with her new husband, who oddly enough has become the father to Harvey’s daughter that she felt she never had. A chance encounter puts him in an airport coffee shop with Emma Thompson. And the rom/com commences. Trouble is, it’s just so bleak for most of it – and the circumstances far from happy or remotely magical – that it never feels like these characters are getting a “happy ever after.” They’re getting the one person who bothered to pay any attention to them. It’s a happy-go-lucky film that almost revels a bit too much in the banal cheerlessness of reality. And while I do enjoy films that are grounded in the real world, there are just certain things that should stay magical. Love, in the form of this kind of film, should stay romantic. If you get to clinical about the truths of life, you kind of miss the point and lose the audience. Which is what happens here. It’s a sweet film with its heart in the right place – but it never makes you want to hold the person you’re with a little tighter. Nor does it have anything profound to say – the only excuse one could have for taking this formula and trying to do something different with it. Altogether, when all is said and done, Last Chance Harvey is a mostly forgettable film with a few cute moments and a cast far better than the ground being covered. And while that cast seems to elevate the material, they never do so to a level that accomplishes the goals that this film seemingly sets out to reach. Like a familiar song played with all the right notes, you can almost tell the person playing it is just going through the motions, and that their heart is in something else. If you’re a fan of any of the cast involved, it’s worth checking out – but it’s nothing to rush out and see. It will eat up two hours of your life and entertain you well enough – but it’s probably not going to leave much of an impression upon you at all. Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. Massawyrm
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Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 16, 2009, 9:13 a.m. CST


    by IndoorPlumbing

    and last

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 9:14 a.m. CST


    by IndoorPlumbing

    clearly no one cares about this film.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 9:15 a.m. CST


    by IndoorPlumbing

    i had to. i'll stop.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 9:27 a.m. CST


    by Xandar1977

    i guess?

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 9:27 a.m. CST


    by Xandar1977

    I'll get my coat.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 9:28 a.m. CST


    by IAmMrMonkey!

    Last chance to get fourth and I took it!

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 9:32 a.m. CST


    by Orbots Commander

    Last Chance Harvey is now aint it cool worthy coverage? It's just some romantic comedy for people in their 50's. Lifetime Channel material.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 9:36 a.m. CST

    So do we get to see the giant rabbit in this one?

    by rev_skarekroe

    That's what I wanna know.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 9:43 a.m. CST

    Why would a studio greenlight this?

    by BobParr

    Who would pay to see a generic rom/com with 50-something actors? Their demographic is way off. Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are very respected actors but they aren't box office draws for this kind of film. And I'm sure that they didn't come cheap either. It's not going to make any profit So if this film has nothing new to add then why would a studio greenlight it?

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 10:24 a.m. CST

    I'm too young for this

    by Spandau Belly

    I'm sure all the 40 and 50somethings who've been lousy parents, screwed up at least one marriage, and invested themselves too much in an obviously unrewarding career will all love this when they're out on their dates convincing themselves that they aren't to blame for their meaningless lives. But I'm just way too young for this.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 10:34 a.m. CST

    Aw, man!

    by Archive

    I thought it was nice - about two people learning to overcome their codependency by living a little more in the moment. To me, it felt honest and real, and I really liked it a lot.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 10:34 a.m. CST

    The Problem Is, Hoffman's Character ISN'T Likeable

    by WriteFromLeft

    Think about it, Massa. He hits on two women during the film, the woman on the plane and Emma Thompson. Both half his age. If Hoffman had hit on, say, Elaine May, and then gone after Thompson, he might have engendered some sympathy. In fact, I sat through the whole boring thing thinking, what if Thompson's character had been played by Elaine May. Now THAT would have been interesting. And funny. Two things Last Chance Harvey isn't.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 10:37 a.m. CST

    Dustin Hoffman does keep trying

    by ricarleite

    While Duvall and Hackman gave up. You gotta give him some credit. He was really wasted in Finding Neverland and got a terrible character in Stranger Than Fiction, and has been doing crappy stuff lately. He's about to be 72, so I think it's time for him to consider quitting as well.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 11:16 a.m. CST

    Stranger Than Fiction was terrible.


    So I'm sure this is good. Thanks Mass.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 11:18 a.m. CST

    Does this have robots or superheroes in it?

    by F-18

    Or is it based on some obscure character that two people on Earth know about? <p> I'm trying to figure out why this is on AICN.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 11:32 a.m. CST

    It's 'cause she's taller than 'im.

    by Diagnostic

    That just unromanic and not funny.<Br> <BR> Now midgets! Midgets are funny!

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 11:32 a.m. CST

    At this point...

    by IndoorPlumbing

    Stallone should just make an Expendables-type film with Pacino, Deniro, Hoffman, etc.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 11:33 a.m. CST

    Everything wrong with this movie...

    by cdubbs727

    Everything wrong with this movie can be summed up in Ebert's review. It has the potential to be nearly the 3rd entry in the "Before Sunrsie" series, but the director doesn't trust his material. He cuts to montages when he should be listening in on conversations and saddles the film with a plot when it should just focus on two people talking and falling in love. I think Hoffman and Thompson are great and some sequences really work well...but the movie just needed to dial back on the studio contraptions and focus on the human story.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 11:35 a.m. CST

    Oops! Gotta get the 'T' in there.

    by Diagnostic


  • Jan. 16, 2009, 11:48 a.m. CST

    Characters with supposedly "unfulfilled" dreams...

    by hillvalley

    "...a musician getting on in years who was never good enough to make it – only good enough to make jingles for floor wax." It annoys me that so often in Hollywood, this is what passes for an unfulfilled life.<p><p>I bet Hoffman's character makes good money writing these jingles-enough to live very comfortably anyway-and he doesn't have to wait tables, stock shelves, or file TPS reports from a cubicle.<p><p>He gets to write music and be paid for it. That's closer to the dream than most artists will ever get. Like that guy from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" who composes the sting-music for Law & Order, is he not a success? He's able to take a sabbatical in Hawaii for as long as he needs, so he's doing better than I am.<p><p>Being in a bar cover-band, that I understand as musical dreams gone to pot. You might get a gaggle of townie fans, but mostly you're just playing background noise for people to get drunk to. And you probably have to work another job to make ends meet.<p><P>Sorry to go off a rant here but I'm hoping to get into television someday, and I'll take any job I can get that pays decently. I just can't identify with characters who make over a $100k doing something that comes naturally to them who view themselves as some kind of failure.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 12:32 p.m. CST

    What's weird about commercial scoring is....

    by Organs

    ...I'd love to do it. Sure, it's not as cool as having a band gracing the cover of Rolling Stone, but it means you make a living composing music. And who's to say you can't have the garage band on the side?

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 1:02 p.m. CST

    I'm still waiting for Dusty's comeback

    by BenBraddock

    He's just in a slump, he'll scale the heights again, just one last time, you'll see.. please! Come on Dusty, you can do it! You too Bob, and Al, you too. And Jack.. Actually get those 4 in a movie together, that'd have to be amazing.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 1:16 p.m. CST

    What's wrong with Stranger Than Fiction?

    by Alec.Eiffel

    I love academic adventures.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 1:25 p.m. CST

    "...get those 4 in a movie together, that'd have to be amazing."

    by hillvalley

    Amazing, all right. "Space Cowboys 2" amazing!

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 2:22 p.m. CST

    "the magical Stranger than Fiction"

    by greyspecter

    re-check your definition of magic, Massa. I understand that that movie completely violates all the rules of logic and reality while trying to be deep and thoughtful, but there really wasn't anyone who actually played a character in that film other than Gyllenhal (sp?). Everyone else was robotic and mundane, except Ferrel, who was required to be outraged and fearful by the script. If you want an actual blurring of the line between reality and fiction, try Adaptation. Also, Kitty flashes the goods. Though without yelling "SPRING BREAK!! WHOOOO!" Sadly. <p>Also, Massa, what's with the relgious complex? Half your avatars are mocking Jesus in some way. What up wit dat?

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 2:36 p.m. CST

    last chance twoface

    by ironic_name

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 4:02 p.m. CST

    God that sounds horrible

    by I Dunno

    just...just horrible.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 4:11 p.m. CST


    by Massawyrm 1

    The avatars are a product of a contest a few years back - as well as a few that trickle in every now and again. I look like the modern, conventional, anglicized Jesus - the jokes write themselves.

  • Jan. 16, 2009, 5:50 p.m. CST

    "kitty flashes the good"

    by dahveed1972


  • Jan. 17, 2009, 12:55 a.m. CST


    by djscott95

    Pretty sure this film was heading to the DVD counter until the Golden Globes threw a couple of noms their way. Rom-Com's suck, even if the people in them are 8 or 80, they just suck.

  • Jan. 17, 2009, 11:39 a.m. CST


    by greyspecter

    Not an Arrested Development fan, eh? Judy Greer, who played the character Kitty on AD, and who frequently flashed the camera (supposedly) but was blurred out for TV, is topless in Adaptation. That was the reference.

  • Jan. 17, 2009, 4:28 p.m. CST

    What would motivate me to see this?

    by Cotton McKnight

    As far as I can see, it's about a father that isn't invited to his daughter's wedding. And for whatever reason a woman comes in and motivates the guy to go. I know i'm simplifying things but that doesn't sound terribly interesting.

  • Jan. 18, 2009, 12:56 a.m. CST


    by WriteFromLeft

    Yes, that sums up the story in a nutshell. Only it takes the filmmakers two hours to tell it. With two leads who have no chemistry together. And a note to directors who work with Dustin Hoffman. He has this odd habit of saying a line and then doing this thing with his mouth. I'm sure it's a subconscious thing. He says the line and then tightens his lips and skews them a bit, as if he's thinking, hey, I just made a funny. And that's no slight against Hoffman, who's a great actor if given the right material. Plus, I stood behind him at the checkout line at J Crew on 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica about five years ago, and he seemed pretty cool. Wish I could have spoken to him but he had his nose buried in a script. Maybe next time.

  • Jan. 18, 2009, 11:05 a.m. CST

    Romantic comedies are for vaginas

    by Luscious.868

    If you don't have one you've got no business watching them.

  • Jan. 18, 2009, 8:09 p.m. CST

    Judy Greer is thing about WHAT PLANET--

    by Bob Cryptonight


  • Jan. 18, 2009, 10:23 p.m. CST

    This movie was shitty and lackluster

    by Cruel_Kingdom

    It was completely forgettable. If anyone else had been in it other than Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman, we wouldn't even be talking about it.