Last Chance Harvey
In 1995's Before Sunrise, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke play young adults spending a day and night in Vienna getting to know one another before they must part for adulthood. In writer and director Joel Hopkins' Last Chance Harvey, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson play two people already settled in lives unfinished who spend a day in London getting to know themselves.
Piano-playing jingle writer Harvey Shine (Hoffman) treats his life with about as much care as he does the computer technologies in his business--which is to say, he ignores it. He's given one last chance by his boss and cuts short a trip to London for his only child's wedding ceremony in order to land an account.
Hoffman brings a natural roundness to his characters--always blurring the lines between pathetic, adorable, charming, and sad. His Harvey is all of these things, with every emotion just under the surface. To see him arriving at the London hotel to find the rest of the wedding party staying at a house his ex-wife and her new husband rented, or him being scolded to take it easy on the hooch at his daughter's rehearsal dinner breaks your heart.
Harvey leaves the wedding early, gets stuck in traffic, misses his flight, gets fired, and knocks a few back in the airport bar. The alcohol mixes with his emotional state, spins him in his barstool, and catches the eye of lovely Kate Walker (Thompson). He talks to her with a boldness he hasn't shown before; he's got nothing left to lose. Thompson's perfect balancing act of stiff upper lip and keen delight makes transparent Kate's guarded expectations, weighty role as caretaker of her divorced mother, and passion for something other than her job as airport statistician.
The two lunch in tandem, at separate tables, and have a chemistry that keeps them side-by-side through most of the rest of the movie. Hopkins brings out the best in his two leads in this very adult romantic comedy in which a late found love brings more than desire to the surface, but dreams, too.