Thursday, April 12, 2012

Absurd but you'll like it

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Lasse Hallström) at Landmark’s Main is what you might expect – an offbeat romantic comedy that not surprisingly comes from the British, who specialize in absurd humour. It has a stellar cast in Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas (or KST as I like to call her). The story is exactly what the title says it is: about an attempt to export thousands upon thousands of salmon from the wilds of northern Britain to the Yemen, the desert country in the Middle East and, let’s face it, a highly unlikely place to fish, well, salmon. McGregor plays Dr. Alfred Jones, a straight-laced fisheries expert who is recruited by Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, a high-powered investment banker whose client is a rich Yemeni sheikh (Amr Waked) and who also happens to be an obsessed salmon fly fisherman (he has a mansion in Scotland, natch). Sheikh Muhammad wants not only to introduce the sport to his fellow Yemenis but sees this as an effort at cross-cultural understanding. Needless to say British authorities think the project absurd, and that’s not counting the country’s legions of fly fishermen. Or as Patricia Maxwell (KST), the prime minister’s press secretary says, the “gentle fishing folk aren’t so fucking gentle after all.” The PM gets involved when the British government sees the idea as a way to promote British-Arab cooperation at a time of bad news from the war in Afghanistan. With natural salmon no longer a possibility our heroes turn to farmed salmon. But Dr. Jones doesn’t think they’ll run uphill and spawn. One of the best parts of this movie, intentional or not, is the spin-doctoring that goes on in the PM’s office, trying to put the best possible light on events by playing close attention to opinion polls, and making sure photo ops wring out the most emotional content for the folks back home. It’s enough to make you never look at any government’s actions in the same way again. But KST, now solidly middle aged, is starting to become slightly typecast as the bitchy control freak boss (as per Christine in the movie Love Crime (Alain Courneau 2010). However, in the process she does get some fantastic zingers in as per the line above. Needless to say Dr. Jones and Chetwode-Talbot fall in love, as in the case of opposites attracting. Despite the subject of the Middle East there’s really no comment on the state of current day politics. If anything, the moviegoer comes away feeling a little warm and fuzzy after watching this good-natured attempt to bridge two cultures.

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