After his first feature film, writer/director Joel Hopkins thought it time to pursue more jobs directing films. So he passed along the film to actress/screenwriter Emma Thompson and the production team behind Truly Moving Picture Nanny McPhee. Though it didn’t land him the job, Thompson liked what she saw and told Hopkins she’d like to work together in the future.
“I sort of went away,” he said recently during a phone interview, “and thought, ‘That doesn’t happen every day. I should really do something with that.”
So he got to work creating a character for Ms. Thompson. Kate, as she is in Last Chance Harvey (opening nationwide Friday, January 16), is lonely and stuck. Harvey (played by Dustin Hoffman) is, too. When their lives intersect after a series of rather mundane yet entirely serendipitous events, they’ll both change the other in ways neither could have ever predicted.
In limited release December 25, critics are already abuzz about the movie. It garnered a Golden Globe nod for both Thompson and Hoffman, and is generating praise from Entertainment Weekly to The Hollywood Reporter. It’s a character study, and Hopkins readily admits such.
“The plot of our story is not groundbreaking,” he confessed easily. “I can only write a story where I care about and am interested in the character. It’s got to be three-dimensional. When you can take a character on an journey, I think it leads you to some truth.
As the film opens, Harvey is not having a good week. A washed-up commercial jingle writer, he’s on the verge of losing his job but must leave for his daughter’s wedding in England. What should be a joyous occasion is deflated when she informs Harvey she’s asked her stepfather to walk her down the aisle. Meanwhile Kate endures a dead-end job, humiliating first dates and a needy mother as nothing out of the ordinary in her day to day life. In one pivotal scene in an airport lounge, Harvey and Kate strike up a conversation. The rest, as they say, is history.
Asked what he’d like audiences to take away from the film, Hopkins takes his time generating an answer, stopping and starting as he’s not quite sure how to articulate his intentions. Eventually, he sums it up much as Harvey might have:
“They gave me an hour and a half of their lives, and I hope they find it worthwhile.”