Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“Happy-Go-Lucky” (+)

In my opinion, the positive reviews of this film were vastly overstated. The movie contains wonderful comedic and dramatic scenes, but they are interspersed in a morass of sometimes boring and unintelligible material. Unintelligible because of the British accents. I occasionally heard hearty laughter from others in the audience when the dialogue eluded me. Subtitles would have been helpful.

The film centers on the daily life of Poppy (Sally Hawkins), a thirty-year-old London elementary schoolteacher with a sunny disposition. Hawkins, an extraordinary comedian who rivals Imogene Coca and Carol Burnett, should have her own weekly television show. (I hope Burnett will do a TV special from time to time.) Two scenes, which I won’t describe in detail so as not to spoil them for you, are particularly enjoyable. One involves Poppy’s flamenco dance class during which I learned that when a flamenco dancer stomps her feet in place with great gusto and noise, she is signifying, “This is my space.” Poppy’s teacher (Karina Fernandez) is also outstanding in this scene in terms of the comic timing of her lines. The second wonderful exchange involves an argument between Poppy and her driving instructor, Scott (Eddie Marsan), who gives her weekly lessons. Both are brilliant in this scene.

I saw the picture at the Quad Theater on a Saturday night and the show was sold out. While the entire film is not terrific, the two scenes described above are worth the price of admission.

“Last Chance Harvey” (+)

Not a great film but rather an amusing English trifle carried by two outstanding actors – Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson.

The film focuses on Harvey (Dustin Hoffman) and Kate (Emma Thompson), two middle-aged, lonely people. Harvey, a divorced father who lives in New York, is a tired jingle writer who longed to be a celebrated jazz musician. Kate, who is single, has a boring job at London’s Heathrow Airport and takes care of her dotty mother, Maggie (Eileen Atkins.)

Harvey travels to London to attend the wedding of his estranged daughter, Susan (Liane Balaban). He ignores Kate at the airport when she seeks to have him answer a questionnaire. Later they meet at a bar and he is intrigued. At the pre-wedding activities, Harvey sees his ex-wife, Jean (Kathy Baker), and her husband, Brian (James Brolin). He endures all the insults he can bear and decides not to show up at the wedding reception but is persuaded by Kate to attend.

The bond between Harvey and Kate clearly grows throughout the movie. Of course, life intervenes. In this case the intervening factor, medical in nature, is a little unbelievable but who cares. If you don’t expect too much from the film, you won’t be disappointed. In the end, you will leave the theater feeling uplifted and happy for a couple in the making.

HS said: I expected more than this film delivered. It is in English, in color, has London scenery and two big name stars. The movie is fraught with coincidences and soap opera dramatics. The plot is conventional: middle-aged man meets, loses and finds middle-aged lady. The couple, a short nerdy guy and a tall, frightened woman, is united only by their need for companionship. The actors are fine, though the story suffers from a surfeit of subplots. This could be a picture from the Eisenhower era, except for the cell phones and jet planes: there is no blood, gore, sex, nudity, or drug use. I saw no minority actors in the cast. After you kick the movie around awhile you feel sorry and are tempted to recommend it, at least to Anglophiles and assimilationists. You could do worse than seeing this film, but you deserve better.