' Cinema Romantico: Last Chance Harvey

Monday, January 19, 2009

Last Chance Harvey

"Thou shalt not take the climax out of the protagonist's hands." - Robert McKee (noted screenwriting guru)

Seeing the preview for this Dustin Hoffmann/Emma Thompson romance I could not help but think this was "Before Sunrise" for adults. Two people meet cute (in an airport bar in this case) and spend a day doing not much beyond talking and falling in love. "Last Chance Harvey" is sort of "Before Sunrise" for adults, but not quite. There isn't as much talking and most of it isn't as interesting and writer/director Joel Hopkins depends too much on the montage but then, in the end, he depends on something else too which is why "Last Chance Harvey" also resembles "An Affair to Remember" which, in turn, means it also resembles the episode of "30 Rock" (i.e. The Best Show On TV) from two weeks ago. Such a fact, of course, means I'm tempted to wile away the remainder of this review by just listing quotes from said "30 Rock" episode. Quotes like, oh, maybe this:

Jenna: "Jack, we go on in five minutes. I need this song. Do we even have the rights?
Jack: "Yes and no. Yes, I'm still talking. No, we don't have the rights."


Or this one:

Jack: "I didn't know what you were serving so I brought a '64 Moet and some pizza blasted Pringles."

But discussing a film by, in actuality, discussing a TV show seems wrong and so, no, I won't list any "30 Rock" quotes. Instead we'll discuss the premise of "Last Chance Harvey" and how it tells the story of Harvey Shine (Hoffmann), an American jingle writer, on his way to London for his daughter's wedding, a daughter from whom he's been very distant all his life and whose step-father is so much more a vital part of her life that she asks him and not Harvey to walk her down the aisle. Making matters worse is the fact once Harvey turns up in London he winds up getting (wait for it!) fired from his job. Wham. Bam. At least at this point we can see Hopkins faithfully following McKee's screenwriting commandments, as in "Thou shalt not make life easy for the protagonist."

Meanwhile Kate Walker (Thompson) is saddled with a mother losing her marbles who has her own pretty obvious subplot to contend with, which I won't waste time addressing here, and a significant other-less existence which allows for a pretty moving sequence in which she winds up forced into a blind date with a guy who then meets his friends who then squeeze into the table with he and Kate and, well, just watching Thompson at work here reminds you why we all wish she'd act more. She also has a job as an interviewer at an airport which allows Harvey to be rude to her as he disembarks his plane so that when he leaves after his daughter's wedding because he has to rush back to the airport to catch a flight to save his job only to miss the flight and wind up in the bar having a drink where he meets Kate and again and now we set forth on the romantic voyage.

The actors sold me from this point on up until the disaster of the third act (which I'm getting to). They really did. Oh, it's a cornball love story but I think it's been well established on this blog that I'm a hopeless romantic and, thus, will buy into cornball love stories more than will most people. It's touching at times and Harvey's toast at his daughter's wedding almost got me to tear up a little....almost, I said. But then just when it seems things are peachy and the whole world is finally smiling on Harvey Shine what does Hopkins as the writer do? He breaks McKee's commandent and yanks the climax right the hell out of his protagonist's hands and that is where, to me, the movie comes flying off the rails.

Nope. Sorry. You just can't do that. Hopkins wants his movie to turn into "An Affair to Remember" and he cheats to do it. He didn't have to do it. I don't know why he didn't just to brainstorm a little bit more. It wouldn't have been that difficult or taken that much time. Have our screenwriters become so lazy, so inept that they can't even think their way out of this ridiculous "Last Chance Harvey" happenstance? Apparently not. And that's when this cheesy movie stopped making me swoon and made me feel like I was just watching cheese.

All of this is why I'm recommending that you ignore the multiplex showing "Last Chance Harvey" and instead stay home, get on NBC.com and watch the "Senor Macho Solo" episode of "30 Rock". Their ode to "An Affair to Remember" with Liz's trip to the Brooklyn Bridge and Jack declaring his love to his mother's nurse while Jenna's wonderfully mangled version of Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart" blares in the background is not only funnier, it's more romantic too.

1 comment:

Wretched Genius said...

"I lied, I have seen your show."