Dustin Hoffman might be well cast as the title character in Last Chance Harvey, an aging loner who takes one last shot at love on a trip to London. But he doesn't act the part. Sure, Harvey Shine's going to have a polish to him after a lifetime of composing commercial jingles in New York. But if you're playing a “loser” at love, you need to stumble, hesitate and utterly lack the confidence to approach a pretty woman.
Hoffman, his 71-year-old body buffed and coiffed to a fine sheen, swaggers like an Oscar winner putting the moves on a woman whose body language and language language say, “Not interested, pushy American.”
At least Emma Thompson is on task and on target. Her Kate is depressed, stuck with a clingy, lonely mother who can't stop calling her at all hours. We see a love life that's reduced to blind dates that end in private humiliations.
This laugh-starved romantic comedy from Joel Hopkins, director of the indie delight Jump Tomorrow, has Harvey flying to London for his daughter's wedding, fearing that he might not have a job to fly home to, buying a drink in an airport bar and flirting with poor Kate. And she, a sad fortysomething airport survey-taker, is so desperate that she's charmed by this little old man's persistence, and they sort of tumble into an afternoon, evening and next-day lunch date.
The very thin charm of that situation is greatly assisted by the performers, especially Thompson, who hides her star wattage and suffers quietly and desperately. Hoffman's Harvey is used to putting his job first and then has the gall to be hurt when his daughter (Liane Balaban) asks her stepdad (James Brolin) to give her away. And yet even when he's supposed to be unpleasant, Harvey's rough edges have been rubbed off.
Hopkins' attempts to give the film touches of An Affair to Remember just left me cold and perplexed. Where is the wit, the poignancy, the romance of Jump Tomorrow? He has waited seven years for his Hollywood debut, and all he has to show for it is a photo album of shots with him and two Oscar winners and a paid vacation to the United Kingdom. This is as tepid as two-hours-in-the-cup tea.