[Review] – Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

8 Apr

Title: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Year: 2012
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writer: Simon Beaufoy, based on the novel by Paul Torday
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked
MPAA Rating: PG-13, some violence and sexual content, and brief language
Runtime: 107 min
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Metacritic: 60

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen has a pretty talented cast, which is what keeps this movie afloat and helps it from being another simply pleasant movie that, though with an unlikely story at its center, feels pretty generic. It stars Ewan McGregor as Dr. Alfred Jones, a tightly-wound Scottish fisheries expert who’s contacted by Harriet, the management consultant played by Emily Blunt, who’s been given the task of helping a sheik introduce salmon fishing to the Yemen Highlands, far away from where those fish can be found or subsist. The sheik, who owns a house in Scotland and thus knows of the sport, believes it’s a pastime that will bring lots of good things to Yemen.

Alfred of course immediately thinks it’s a pretty damn ridiculous request, not to mention something that would surely prove to be quite impossible to even get close to achieving, but then you get the great Kristin Scott Thomas coming in as a Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, nudging Alfred into the project because it would create a great public-relations story. So of course Alfred’s mind about the project will change, of course he’ll start developing feelings for Harriet, and of course the film will then be all about, as its posters say, making the improbable possible.

Unfortunately, there is a film here that could have potentially been great, but that’s just not what we got. The novel on which it’s based on, by Paul Torday, is an absurd kind of political satire, and it would have worked really well as one, because it had truly tremendous potential to be a kind of edgier romantic comedy. But instead what we get is a rather bland kind of film, one that’s still good enough because its cast is quite talented, but one that director Lasse Hallström has, like he’s been known to do, embedded with a bit too much heart which makes this one too schmaltzy to work as well as it could have.

So I’m rather sad because of that, because I always think about what could have been, and if this one had been allowed to keep the snarky bite of the satire it’s based on I’m sure we would have gotten something really funny. Instead we get a blandly commercial romantic comedy that’s just so dully pleasant and harmless that I won’t really remember this one all that much when the year ends and I look back at all the films I watched. Which is a pity because, like I said, this is a really talented cast; it’s them that will still make this film worthy of a cautious recommendation from me, but it’s also them that make me sad to think how great they would have been in the better film that could have been made out of this material but just wasn’t.

There’s another reason why I’m still giving this one a recommending grade, and that’s Kristin Scott Thomas. To me she’s one of the greatest actresses we have working today, and here she’s the only one working with a bit of bite, the one snarky character that really speaks to the satire this one’s based on. When you watch the film it’ll be super easy to tell she’s playing another tune, but it’s precisely what keeps this film ticking and prevents it from being just a cloying bland affair, and it really would have been awesome if everyone else played it like she does here.

Mr. McGregor and Ms. Blunt are both very good actors, and because the whole emotional center of the story is based on whether the two will ever get together it kind of works even if it’s a bit too saccharine for my taste. They’re very charming actors, and Mr. McGregor is really good at playing the uptight kind of character he normally doesn’t get to be, downplaying the kind of rebel magnetism he usually has going on just enough so that you believe him as an unhappily married man to a woman who he doesn’t see all that much, but not that much so that you can still see the attraction Harriet may feel, she herself in a relationship with a soldier who goes missing in action. They have really great chemistry on-screen, and you can tell they really like working with one another, and as mushy as it all is, I think that’s just enough for one to be drawn into this film.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a decent enough flick that could have been far, far better. In the hands of a director who understands this kind of eccentric British comedy this could have been genius, but Mr. Hallström is too busy trying to make this one a heart-warming romantic comedy that never really sticks. At least we have Ms. Thomas, who understands what this film really should be, and while Mr. McGregor and Ms. Blunt coast by on charm alone, the fourth player in this film, Amr Waked who plays the sheik is stuck playing a character that’s underdeveloped, that could have been a great comedic prop but that’s just there to move the action along and provide a really crappy subplot involving an assassination attempt. In the end we get a harmless little film that while quite okay, could have certainly been pretty great.

Grade: B-

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One Response to “[Review] – Salmon Fishing In The Yemen”

  1. Eagle-Eyed Editor April 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    I love the storyline of this movie. I look forward to seeing it.

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