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Last Chance Harvey: Only the lonely

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Audiences weren't exactly clamoring for Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson to make a movie together, but here they are, as a Mr. and Miss Lonely-hearts destined to complete each other across The Pond. Syrupy if not all the way to schmaltzy, Last Chance Harvey is a Nora Ephron film in everything but name. Instead, the name's Joel Hopkins, who wrote and directed and somehow convinced a pair of Oscar winners to star in it. Hoffman's the eponymous Harvey, a long-divorced jingle writer sliding down the ladder of success. Thompson is Kate, a never-married government employee trying to make her way through her 40s without drawing too much attention to herself. He's in London for his daughter's wedding; she lives there. It's kismet.

Or is it all a bit forced? Hopkins keeps the two apart as long as possible, cutting back and forth between Harvey's lonely life and Kate's. He's so removed from his family that his daughter has asked her stepfather (James Brolin) to give her away. And Kate is still umbilically tied to her mother (Eileen Atkins), who phones by the hour. But both of them have their charms, and a meet-not-so-cute at an airport bar leads to a whole day and night's worth of walking around London, the Thames often by their side. The conversation is a little banal, however, and not in a good way, as in Before Sunrise. But the actors are too good at what they do to let things slip too far.

Both have been given opportunities to let 'er rip - Hoffman at a wedding reception, where Harvey proposes a toast, Thompson toward the end, when Kate relaxes her stiff upper lip a bit and reveals just how needy she is, surprising even herself. Hopkins cooks up an excuse to drive these two apart for a while, even conjures a rendezvous à la Sleepless in Seattle. But they're clearly meant for each other. It says so right there in the script.

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