Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

7 Mar

The high-level description of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the new romantic comedy from director Lasse Hallstrom (Cider House Rules, Dear John) is pretty well universal: Dr. Alfred Jones, a fisheries expert, is trapped in a boring job and a boring life, when he’s approached by Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, a consultant in the employ of a Yemeni sheikh. The sheikh is a fishing enthusiast who wants to bankroll a project to bring salmon fishing to his home country. Jones is skeptical, but eventually becomes taken with both the project and the girl. All of this is watched over by a government P.R. officer and the idealistic sheikh.

If this were an American movie, Fred Jones would be played by a stammering Ben Stiller or Owen Wilson. He’d frequently drop things, or maybe run into things. Sandra Bullock or Scarlett Johanssen would be Chetwode-Talbot, whose name would be shortened to just Talbot, who would play her as strident and demanding. The PR officer would be a man-hungry cougar who’s set her eyes on the sheikh, who would serve as comic relief (think John Lovitz in a turban).

Fortunately, this is a British movie, and it is proof that a smart romantic comedy can still be made without either of the leads debasing themselves for a laugh, and with (mostly) realistic characters peopling the margins.

Ewan McGregor stars as Dr. Jones, and this may be his most mature role yet. He is pitch-perfect as the buttoned-up fisherman, a man who seems to be content while not entirely happy. Emily Blunt’s Chetwode-Talbot is a beautiful, smart, efficient consultant, shepherding the project along despite seemingly insurmountable odds, Jones’ skepticism, and a crisis in her personal life.

Amr Waked plays the sheikh as a visionary who realizes the folly of his vision, but pursues it nonetheless, seeing a greater purpose in his dream of fishing. Kristin Scott Thomas dominates every scene she’s in as the uber-driven, take-no-prisoners PR deputy. She plays the role broadly, but it works in contrast with the other actors.

The scenery in Scotland and Morocco (standing in for Yemen, or, in the British style, “the Yemen”) is gorgeous, and it’s easy to see why these wildly different men would both love the sport of Salmon fishing.

As the American movie I described above, this would be just another by-the-numbers romcom. But the British movie that it is is a smart, lovely, gentle comedy with just a touch of romance.

 

My score:  8 Cheeseburgers

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One Response to “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”

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  1. Movies – The Hunger Games « Fat Guys On… - March 28, 2012

    […] and go see Salmon Fishing in the Yemen […]

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