23 March 2012

Salmon Fishing in Yemen

Salmon Fishing in Yemen is the latest film from Lasse Hallstrom, the director of Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, What's Eating Gilbert Grape? and 2010's surprise hit Dear John. I am a huge fan of Chocolat. For some reason, that movie just makes me smile. And, really, who doesn't love What's Eating Gilbert Grape? DiCaprio was robbed that year for Best Supporting Actor. With a decent preview, and a three time nominated director calling the shots, I went expecting a fun feel-good movie.

Salmon Fishing in Yemen is a quirky film that follows Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) as he is asked to bring the sport of fly fishing to the Yemen. Why is he asked to do this? The British government's head of public relations Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) is trying to look good to the Arab world after some tension rises from bombings. Sheikh Muhammad (Amr Waked) has taken a liking to the sport while in his vacation castle in Scotland. Harriet (Emily Blunt) is in charge of the Sheikh's money in England, and she inquires about the plausibility of bringing it to Yemen.

Alfred thinks this idea is absolutely ridiculous, implausible, a waste of time and money, and downright impossible. Yet, his boss Bernard (Conleth Hill) forces Alfred's hand, and Alfred agrees to participate in this looney escapade. Since money is no object, Alfred and Harriet meet with the Sheikh and form a plan to attempt to pull off the impossible. Many obstacles stand in the way of the loveable trio, not only environmentally. Some radical extremists in Yemen believe that the Sheikh is being a traitor to his country by bringing a foreign element into their country. Not to mention, Harriet's military boyfriend is killed in action and Alfred's wife splits.

Salmon Fishing in Yemen is an enjoyable film. The dialog is solid, but that is to be expected from the Oscar winning screenwriter of 2008's Slumdog Millionaire, Simon Beaufoy. He adapted Paul Torday's novel of the same name. While it is a cute and enjoyable film, the love story plot lines are painful, forced and unnecessary. The relationship between Alfred and Harriet is to be expected in a film of this nature. It is the relationship between Alfred and his wife, and Harriet and her boyfriend that make the film's romantic aspect painful.

As I mentioned above, Hallstrom is a nominated director. That brings a certain level of expectation. In his films that I have seen, he has never used stupid on-screen gimmicks like he did this time. They brought nothing to the movie but distractions. Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt have good chemistry together, and with Amr Waked. Waked really steals every scene he is in. Salmon Fishing in Yemen is a delightful escape for 111 minutes. Sadly, it is quite forgettable. I doubt that in twelve years I will be touting this film like I still do Chocolat. Don't let that discourage you from seeing Salmon Fishing in Yemen though. It is worth the time and money to watch.

RATING: 7/10

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