Last Chance Hoffman
Harvey is a commercial jingle writer. While his career choice could be mined for much comedy gold, writer/director Joel Hopkins chooses not to. So why else make him a commercial jingle writer? Maybe there is something shallow and detached about commercial jingles that represent how Harvey lives his life. I would love to meet a real commercial jingle writer but for none of the reasons explored in this movie. Emma Thompson is an airport interviewer for a British agency named Kate Walker. I think the only reason is perhaps so Harvey can go looking for her in a crowded place at a key moment in the film.
The movie takes about a half hour to get going which leaves about an hour of good material. This is a simple plot of guy gets girl, guy loses girl, guy gets girl. The audience should hope they get together but fear they won’t. That romantic tension dynamic will keep them in their seats. It's not that the movie has to follow this but that it wants to and doesn't, but nobody told the composer this. The film is scored as if we are already invested and sold on this relationship.
Harvey doesn’t do much but stare at Kate. They never make a connection that is really worth pursuing at least on screen. That fact that he's much older and shorter than she is puts him in the underdog category but not every underdog is worth cheering for. There is one touching moment when Harvey swallows his pride and makes a sweet gesture at his daughter's wedding. Perhaps this is the moment when Kate finds him attractive but but we're never really clued into this, in fact she tries to leave the party.
Somewhere near the last half hour, the film begins to get to some real issues. There is a great scene where Emma Thompson finally expresses her real fear of getting into the relationship and it’s very legitimate. But it never has as much impact as it should because there is no hint of this feeling early on in the film and it comes as a surprise more than a release of tension.
This film is simple, sweet, and enjoyable but if you’re a long time Hoffman fan, you’ll keep wondering when he’s going to do something really interesting and he never does. Maybe he was trying a less is more approach or maybe the script just didn't have enough for him to do. Both Hoffman and Thompson give good performances in fact they were both nominated for Golden Globes. But this not a comedy of manners, it's a love story and it demands more than good acting.
Hoffman hasn’t done a lead role in several years. Maybe this was his last chance to do a romantic film and he took it and didn't look back. If that is true, then it explains why he was drawn to this role, and maybe why Harvey is drawn to Kate.