Salmon Fishing in The Yemen
I suspect a lot of Saga readers will be drawn to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, especially those who enjoyed Paul Torday’s novel of the same name – a romantic comedy wrapped in a wry satire of political spin. Certainly this film version is a pleasant enough entertainment (see trailer, right).
Emily Blunt plays Harriet, the London representative of a wealthy, eccentric Yemeni sheikh with a wildly implausible ambition – to build a salmon-fishing lake in his own country, despite its inhospitable climate. Ewan McGregor plays Fred, a meek, buttoned-down government fisheries scientist, charged by 10 Downing Street to make it happen - thus providing the government with a ‘good news story’ from the Middle East.
He has a wife who prefers her work to his company, while her boyfriend is off fighting in Afghanistan. Fred resists Harriet’s advocacy of this unlikely scheme – but then guess what happens. (Clue: it’s a romantic comedy, remember?)
It’s also an amiable, agreeable story, seemingly aimed at offending no-one. I only wish I’d liked it more. Director Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules) is an expert in shameless manipulation of audience emotions, but the film generally has a lazy feel: it doesn’t work at making us care that much. All the expected metaphors are present and correct: the central relationship, like the sheikh’s scheme, is represented as ‘swimming upstream.’
It should feel a welcome change to stumble across a romantic comedy that’s devoid of raunchiness or smutty double entendres, but Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is too polite for its own good. It’s also utterly predictable: Simon Beaufoy is a fine practitioner of the screenwriter’s art, but the last half-hour feels dashed off, as every impediment to a happy ending is ruthlessly (and cursorily) jettisoned. This is the least surprising rom-com since My Big Fat Greek Wedding – you see the ending coming within the first 20 minutes, and no plot twists ever surface to alter your mind.
Still, no-one’s reputation will be harmed by this – though McGregor is somewhat miscast as a dull little bureaucrat. Kristin Scott Thomas fares rather better as the prime minister’s attack-dog press secretary, while Emily Blunt, the best reason to see the film, confirms her stature as an actress of intelligence and rare charm.
Director Luc Besson offers a dutiful, decent account of the rise of Aung San Suu Kyi in her native Burma, starting with her return home to Rangoon in 1988 to visit her ailing mother, placing on record her campaigning leadership of the National League of Democracy, and tracking her long house arrest. Michelle Yeoh does a fair job of portraying Suu Kyi – though it must be said events have rather overtaken this film since its release into cinemas. There’s another problem: no mere film actress can capture the grace and charisma of this remarkable woman in real life. Still, it’s worthwhile, and interesting enough. (Entertainment in Video, £11.49)
The Girl With The Dragon tattoo
Purely as a piece of film-making, this Hollywood re-make is superior to the Swedish original. The problem is that so many people have by now read the Stieg Larsson novel on which both are based, and many devotees of the book have seen the Swedish film too. Yet undeniably director David Fincher (Seven, The Social Network) shows his customary flair in recounting this story of a middle-aged Stockholm journalist (Daniel Craig) who joins forces with a punkish computer hacker (Rooney Mara) to investigate the disappearance of a rich young woman 40 years previously. It’s loud, powerful and nail-biting; you certainly feel as if you’ve been in a film. Contains scenes of violence. (Sony, £9.99)
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