21 July 2013

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen 2011
  • Director: Lasse Hallström
  • Based on book: by Paul Torday
  • Cast: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Tim Mison, Rachel Stirling
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Ewan McGregor – The Ghost Writer, The Island, Star Wars, Moulin Rouge, Young Adam, Little Voice, Velvet Goldmine, A Life Less Ordinary, Brassed Off, Train Spotting, Shallow Grave, Big Fish
    • Emily Blunt – Young Victoria, The Jane Austen Book Club, My Summer of Love
    • Kristin Scott Thomas – Sarah’s Key, Nowhere Boy, Il y’a longtemps que je t’aime, Keeping Mum, Gosford Park, The English Patient, Angels and Insects, Richard III, A Handful of Dust
    • Rachel Stirling – Young Victoria
  • Why? Ewan McGregor and Kristin Scott Thomas
  • Seen: July 13, 2013

It is said that movies are not as good as the novels they’re based on.  This is sometimes true. Often they are different but as good.  At times they are better.
This is one of those times.  I found the book somewhat tedious in the second half and the characters a bit uninvolving.
Not so in the movie. It’s warm, it’s funny, it’s moving and sad, even in its feel good ending.
The main reason: McGregor and Scott Thomas.  They’re both among my favorite actors and they seem to be able to play anything. They’re so far removed from Renton in Train Spotting and Queen Anne in Richard III that they could be from different planets.  Here, socially inept fish expert McGregor is funny and endearing, especially when he starts getting passionate about the salmon project and Harriet (Blunt),  Scott Thomas’ bitchy überambitious manic and arrogant press secretary to the Prime Minister is hilarious and an enormous improvement over her male counterpart in the novel. Blunt and Waked are also good as are the others.
The story? Well the title says it all.  How ridiculous can you get? And that’s the whole point. Ridiculous or not – as the likeable sheik well knows – if it’s theoretically possible then it’s possible. The moral could just well be that we have to have faith in science.
I haven’t quite decided what I think of the change from the novel that Harriet’s soldier comes back and she has to choose. The fact that he comes across as being a racist (“All Arabs…”) doesn’t quite counter his nice-guyness and the trauma he has been through is pretty much ignored. But that’s a smallish problem in the film’s entirety. Another one could be: as in many of Hallström’s films it comes close to being too rosy, the ending is too all’s-well-that and the problems are too neatly and sweetly solved.  This bothers some people but I’m fine with it.
This is, warts and all, a thoroughly enjoyable film.

4 * of 5

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