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Last Chance Harvey in our magazines

THE MOVIE: Last Chance Harvey

Dustin Hoffman • Emma Thompson
DIRECTOR: Joel Hopkins

Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson THE CONCEPT:
New Yorker, Harvey Shine (Hoffman), is on the verge of losing his dead-end job as a jingle writer. He has one more chance to deliver. But when Harvey goes to London for the weekend to attend his daughter’s wedding, he misses his plane back and is fired. Drowning his sorrows in the airport bar, he starts to talk with Kate (Thompson) a slightly prickly employee of the Office of National Statistics who works at the airport, and he finds himself energized by her intelligence and compassion, and their growing relationship unexpectedly transforms their lives.

U.S. RELEASE: December 25 2008, Limited
• Rated: PG-13


EMMA THOMPSON on working with Hoffman:
Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson“We met for the first time on Stranger Than Fiction and made one of those rare discoveries that you make sometimes in our profession, that you could just work with someone and there seems to be no obstacle, no solving, no edges to rub off. It seems to happen with a very peculiar intimate ease. And it was frustrating to us, because we didn’t get more to do. We were going mad with this feeling, ‘Oh, what a shame we couldn’t carry on these characters and do a film about them.’ We made jokes about it. You always say, ‘Let’s work together again,’ and it never happens. Then when I got home, Joel’s [Hopkins] script was sitting on my desk, and I just went, ‘Oh my God! Send this to Dustin quickly before he’s forgotten that he said he wanted to work with me again.’”

Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman“When you act with someone it’s an intimate experience, even though it’s short term, it’s like an arranged marriage, you don’t get to pick your partner. When you decide to [marry] someone in life you have things in common, you laugh at the same stuff, there are similarities and you have a similar feeling about life, and that doesn’t happen often in film, and it did this time. I think we met creatively at the perfect time.”

“I think that the general challenge about this film is that it is not full of plot, subplot, super plot, action, heroes, villains, it’s about the movements of the human heart. It’s what I call bread and butter acting, rather than the grand acting that we’re sometimes required to do; it’s inhabiting characters in a very subtle way, and making very ordinary moments interesting and engaging and full of meaning and profundity. That was the challenge for us, and I don’t know if we’d have been able to do that when we were young people. I think as a result of being older and having done this job for such along time, that we were able to do this movie.”

“The two scenes we did in Stranger Than Fiction were very precise dialogue, stylized in fact. We adhered to the commas, periods and three dots, so it was not only word by word, but it was almost a screenplay that was in a kind of modern verse, that’s the way we were asked to do it. So when this came along we talked about how we would do it. And we thought, if we could evoke that life that went on with us when we were just sitting in the lobby of a hotel [during the shooting of Stranger Than Fiction], it would [be extraordinary]. [On Last Chance Harvey] there were some nights we had more than one camera, we would play with a scene, so that neither of us knew where it was going. We knew what the scene was about, but we would open it up every single time, and every take. So we really didn’t know what the other one was going to do. Not really improvisation, but an improvisatory atmosphere.”

“If I hadn’t become an actress it’s very possible that there are aspects of Kate’s character that would have been mine, as a young woman certainly. I always felt like something of an outsider. I wasn’t able to join in easily. There were some groups that seemed to me to be far too glamorous and their reference base seemed to be rich and more interesting than mine could ever be, and I felt locked out from that, so I could identify with her.”

“The older you get the more you understand love and life, or you just stagnate and you don’t realize that you’re in a stand-still like these characters when they meet. Emma and I used our feelings about life in this piece, because it isn’t plot driven. I think that as you get older, you begin to understand what intimacy is on a level that you didn’t before and why it’s so frightening to most of us. These people allow themselves the chance to be happy for the first time in their lives because they understand disappointment, they understand rejection, they’ve been living in it, they’ve got the defenses built for it, so they can survive it; and they begin to understand that they can survive happiness.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Feature © 2008 Visual Imagination.
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Film Review, #701, December 2008 cover

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