Gee-Harmony: Hoffman?s courtship is sweet, if predictable.

If you’re letting the Golden Globe nominations of Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson for their performances in Last Chance Harvey convince you that this is a great movie…well, just consider that the Hollywood Foreign Press also regarded Mamma Mia! as one of the best films of 2008. But the mild charms to be found in writer-director Joel Hopkins’ romantic comedy are, for a January release, mildly remarkable. Hoffman and Thompson play lonelyhearts Harvey and Kate, destined to find each other after all but giving up on happiness. (And yes, this is a script that not-so-subtly equates singledom with misery.) Harvey is a divorced pianist who discovers, right before a trip to London for the wedding of his daughter Susan (Liane Balaban), that his day job composing music for commercials is in jeopardy. Harvey’s blues worsen at the nuptials, where he feels like a grade-A ass whenever anyone refers to his ex’s follow-up husband (James Brolin) as the “father of the bride.” Meanwhile, Kate works for an airline, with a side job as a slave to her attention-starved mother. Last Chance Harvey is Hopkins’ second film but the first you’ve heard of (Jump Tomorrow, anyone?), and it ambles along like a baby boomer’s Before Sunrise after Harvey and Kate meet in an airport lounge. The humor is gentle, with running jokes such as Harvey’s attempts to hide the security tag on his rehearsal-dinner jacket and Kate’s mother’s recon work on her new and possibly murderous neighbor. Excusing the rom-com-requisite dress montage, however, the film offers some pleasant surprises: Thompson displays a tart but looser-than-usual wit, and Hoffman is also genuinely funny and endearing, no small feat after the unsettling spectacle that was 2007’s Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Their banter is clever and natural, and even more realistic are their characters’ oof moments, such as when Kate is awkwardly shut out of conversation on what was supposed to be a blind date or Harvey’s every encounter with his estranged family. The film may not be award-worthy, but it’s modestly winning nonetheless.

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