I love vacations at Chautauqua Institution because there is the opportunity to go to lectures. Lectures are important to me because I love new ideas and other ways of thinking. On August 3rd we heard Richard Brown, who teaches Film 101 at NYU. He asks all his students to not read critics and trust their own “instinctive, visceral feelings” when you see a movie. He also reminded us it’s easy to write a snarky review. This all applies to the movie Last Chance Harvey because so many critics found it lacking. It is a gem of a film and as ReelMovieGuy observed in his Netflix review “I felt like I was sitting in on a conversation and enjoyed every minute of it.” This movie was exactly that.
It is not a small task to teach clients that the infrastructure of love, in order to obtain longevity, must be built on honest conversations. Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson have at least 70 minutes of conversation that includes being forthright and authentic, and vulnerability combined with respectful pauses. Their honesty begins when Hoffman’s Harvey acknowledges he’d been rude to her in the airport earlier when he first encountered her. The director also does a remarkable job of depicting the context of their individual profound loneliness which film so often ignores.
Think back in your own life, how often does conversation happen where anyone acknowledges their true anguish? Dustin tells his truth “I’ve always been embarrassing to my ex-wife and daughter somehow.” He allows Thompson’s true enjoyment of him, to influence him to find the courage as father of the bride to take his rightful place and make a toast. It is a credit to his acting that the audience is on a precipice with bated breath hoping he gets it right. His genuineness influences Thompson’s reserve so that she is able to admit she’s grown to expect to be only disappointed time after time. Influencing each other is the ultimate test of respect. Respect is more important than love for long lasting relationships. This 38 yr. old director reveals all of this along with the delight that the future always holds possibilities. The movie teaches the slow, substantive dance of love that has depth and truth.
James Ivory spoke here on August 4th and he attested to so many young directors lacking in emotional wisdom and true character studies in their scripts. This movie captures both in a lovely 93 minutes. It should come as no surprise that both Hoffman and Thompson were nominated for Golden Globes for their performances. So many young people could benefit from watching this film conversation, savoring their honest vulnerability and learn something about the dance of love that makes you yearn and act on being a better person. That’s the stuff worth a lifetime.