Last Chance Harvey (Blu-ray) (2008)

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Released 15-Jul-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Audio-Visual Commentary-Director Joel Hopkins, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson
Featurette-Making Of-Shall We Walk
Featurette-Making Of-An Unconventional Love Story
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 92:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Joel Hopkins
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Dustin Hoffman
Emma Thompson
Eileen Atkins
Kathy Baker
Liane Balaban
James Brolin
Richard Schiff
Tim Howard
Case ?
RPI ? Music Dickon Hinchliffe


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (2304Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) is a man at the crossroads of life. Better said he is at a T-junction rather than at crossroads as everything looks like it is coming to an abrupt halt. Harvey is a man for whom life, love and career are in a state of permanent disappointment and the title of this film is a reflection of the limited hope in the future.

When we first meet Harvey he is noodling away at a piano playing some soulful jazz. But it turns out that isn't Harvey's job. A frustrated jazz pianist, he made his career as a composer of advertising jingles (in creative terms apparently akin to cleaning out the monkey cage at the Zoo) but Harvey's style is a little dated and the agency for whom he submits work is looking for some fresh blood. A crucial client meeting on Monday may be the last chance Harvey gets to stay as a player in the industry.

To get to the meeting on Monday Harvey has to do some fast work for this weekend is his daughter's birthday and she just happens to be getting married in London, far away from his New York home. Arriving in London tired and a little grumpy he is immediately rude to the woman conducting a survey at the airport. He brushes the woman aside although we as audience now that that's not the last time he will see Kate Walker (Emma Thompson).

Arriving at his hotel Harvey finds that he his ex-wife (Kathy Baker) has booked him into this place alone whilst the wedding party is staying at a private house. At the pre-wedding dinner the position becomes clear - his daughter Susan (Liane Balaban) loves him dearly but wants her step-father Brian (James Brolin) to give her away. It is his last emotional straw. He agrees to attend the wedding but tells Susan he has to get back to New York and can't make the reception.

Meanwhile Kate Walker busies herself in her own little lonely life. Her mobile phone constantly rings but it is just her mother worried that her new Polish neighbour is getting up to funny business in his shed. After another blind date goes wrong Kate almost resigns herself to a life of solitude.

Having missed his flight to New York, and been told by his boss that he need not come back, Harvey parks himself in the airport cafe for a couple of stiff drinks. Kate is hiding out here too reading her book and getting away from the world. Through Harvey's insistence the pair talk… and talk… and talk, finally sensing a kinship that is undeniable. As the pair walk and converse and generally fall in love the question becomes: is it possible for these two lost souls to find true love and will Harvey make his daughter's reception and get on his plane back to the US?

That Hoffman and Thompson are two of the finest actors working today is indisputable. The pair were last seen together in Will Ferrell's "serious" vehicle Stranger Than Fiction where Thompson played a neurotic author and Hoffman a slightly unhinged professor.

Here they are at the top of their game and clearly relish the challenge of bouncing off each other. The scene in the café is a perfect example of skilled craft as nuances abound and the actors use slight changes in inflections, and their wonderfully expressive eyes, to convey oceans of meaning. Hoffman is great as a man who can steal victory from the jaws of defeat although he just as often does the opposite. Although some have pointed out the age difference between the two Hoffman has a twinkle in his eyes that makes him look as young as he wants - at stages reminding one of Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate with a smile and a turn of his head. Thompson may just be the finest actor capable of displaying the "suppressed primal scream". Her key dramatic scene in Last Chance Harvey is precise and real without an ounce of over-acting. It recalls her similar moments in Sense and Sensibility and Love Actually.

Last Chance Harvey has been described by some as Before Sunrise for grown ups. There is a hint of truth in this suggestion. Both films are about the process of falling in love and both are dramatically undercut by the plane/train that will inevitably drive them apart. Even at 92 minutes Last Chance Harvey is over 10 minutes longer than Before Sunrise and that 10 minutes is reflected in unnecessary plotting. A weakness in Last Chance Harvey, by comparison to the Linklater picture, is that the scenes between the leads are so strong that the script decisions made in order to inject drama into the piece seem clanky and clichéd. In Before Sunrise the flight ticket that Ethan Hawke held was a potent image not least due to the fact that the young couple were poor students. In Last Chance Harvey there is no doubt that Harvey could have simply stayed in London waiting to see if this new relationship worked out.

Perhaps the other flaw in the film is that the real meeting takes place about a third of the way through. By that time we have seen poor Harvey emotionally bashed and Kate so hopelessly loveless that the film takes some time to bounce back from its depressive tone. It is when the leads do meet and the talking begins that the film comes alive.

Last Chance Harvey was written and directed by English sophomore director Joel Hopkins. He directs his stars well although, if the extras are to be believed, the leads had a role in shaping the flow of the dialogue. Both the leads were nominated for Golden Globes in the comedy category.

Last Chance Harvey is shot beautifully in a wonderful London. It is a slight piece and carries its share of flaws. Although billed as a romantic comedy there is more drama than comic elements. However, fans of both actors can rest assured that this is no vanity project. It performed poorly at the US and local box office and is only now receiving its UK release. It deserves to fair better.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   Last Chance Harvey was shot on 35mm film and projected cinematically at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

The film is presented on Blu-Ray in its original aspect ratio.

This is not a Blu-Ray to show to your friends as an example of the high point of the high definition medium. That is reflective not of the transfer but of the original film elements. The film is shot in a slightly cool but fine London and looks more beautiful than I ever remembered the city. As per Hollywood cliché this is a London where a middle aged couple can walk the streets until dawn without fear of a mugging.

The Blu-Ray is very sharp and the colours clear and well defined without drawing attention to itself. The skin tones are detailed and accurate. There are no compression issues or technical defects on this double layered Blu-Ray disc.

There are English subtitles for the Hearing Impaired which give a good account of on-screen action.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Last Chance Harvey comes with a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, a 5.1 Dolby Digital track and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Commentary Track.

The DTS MA is more engaging and fuller but the standard 5.1 is no slouch. Dialogue is easy to hear and audio sync is perfect.

The benefit of the DTS track is to be found in the general depth and quality of the sound. Once again, this is not a film that demonstrates the awesome power of high def audio but is is a pleasing listen.

The music is by former Tindersticks member Dickon Hinchliffe. Hinchcliffe has a similar indie Brit cred to Jonny Greenwood who provided the soundtrack to There Will Be Blood. The track is actually quite subtle providing a gentle dramatic counterpoint to events.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There are a few decent extras on this Blu-ray.

Audio Commentary : Joel Hopkins, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson

The director and leads are on hand for this interesting commentary track. Well, sort of. Thompson and Hopkins are in London whilst an apologetic Hoffman provides his commentary from New York.It is a breezy affair. Hoffman, ever the obsessive, remembers every actor he worked with in the film down to the unseen taxi drivers. The others have a bit more fun as they josh together about the filmmaking process and how it was to work with the great Dustin Hoffman.

Shall We Walk - Making of (30.01)

Although this is, on the face of it, a studio puff piece it manages to transcend these origins due to the length and range of topics covered. Just about everyone gets a look-in here from leads and supports to director, producers and production designer. The leads discuss their characters - the interview sequences were mainly shot in production whilst filming the wedding scene.

An Unconventional Love Story: The Making of Last Chance Harvey (10.30)

Curious. There is nothing wrong with this Making of feature except that I couldn't distinguish the style and content from the other feature. Interviews and excerpts from the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   This Blu-ray is marked for Regions A,B and C.

Summary

    Last Chance Harvey is no world beater but it represents an entertaining take on the romantic comedy/drama genre. As Emma Thompson says in the commentary track it is great to see a romance where the leads aren't all air-brushed magnificence.

The sound and vision are excellent.

The extras list may be slim by Blu-ray standards but they perfectly suit the package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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