Sunday, April 1, 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: The Movie

In this scene from Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Fred Jones,
played by Ewan McGregor, presents to
Harriet Chetowode-Talbot a salmon fly named after her. 
           The movie Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is as witty, whimsical and thoughtful as the novel by Paul Torday.
            Director Lasse Hallstrom’s and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy’s vision of the story in Torday’s first novel sometimes goes in different directions than the book does.  However, Hallstrom’s light but sure directorial touch and Beaufoy’s screenplay capture the essential truth of the novel and, in some cases, make the story and characters more real than they are in the book!
            Emily Blunt plays Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, who represents a mysterious sheik who wishes to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen.  Blunt captures Harriet’s romantic side and the gamut of her feelings as she falls in love with a British Army captain and then waits after he is called up for dangerous duty - - and she is smart and determined in undertaking the sheik’s project.
            And Chetwode-Talbot needs smart and determined when she approaches the British government for assistance.  Senior civil servants think the idea of salmon in the Yemen is batty and fob her off on Doctor Alfred “Fred” Jones, a fisheries functionary specializing in the life of the caddis fly, played by Ewan McGregor.
            After several rude, condescending conversations with Chetwode-Talbot, Jones is suddenly is attracted to the idea and falls for it, hook, line and sinker.  McGregor convincingly shows Jones’ progression from skeptic to believer in the sheik’s plan; this progression is key to the movie exploring issues of faith and belief. 
In short order, Chetwode-Talbot and Jones are flying north to Scotland, to meet the sheik, played by Amr Waked.  Each person comes to Scotland as an individual, with their own hopes and fears.  But over several days, they become a team, each learns to pool their strengths and help the others overcome weakness.
            Hovering over the project, like puppet master wannabes, are Patricia Maxwell, , the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, and Bernard Sugden, Jones’ boss, played by Conleth Hill.
            In the book, the Press Secretary is a man and casting Thomas did not initially seem like a good idea.  However, Thomas quickly won me over, playing the role with verve and satirical wit.
            While Hill’s role is minor, he makes every second count.  He has a pasty demeanor; his performance evokes the best of Ricky Gervais in The Office and the pointy-haired boss in the Dilbert comics - - and adds his own comic flourishes.
            The actors move quickly beyond individual great performances and come together in a seamless, appealing repertory.
            Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was filmed in London, Scotland and Morocco stood in for Yemen.  The clear photography makes it easy to feel the damp coolness of Scotland or the blast-furnace heat of the Middle East. 
            Catching salmon is unpredictable; they are nicknamed “the fish of a thousand casts.”  Yet the production crew gets salmon to miraculously appear on cue in the nick of time.
Simon Beaufoy chooses the book’s most pertinent scenes and adds his details that build on the book.  In the book, a girl brings water to Chetwode-Talbot and Jones in the heat of the day.  The scene illustrates hospitality - - and provides a clue leading to the success of the project.  Beaufoy sticks to the structure of Torday’s scene and makes the points concisely and vividly. 
Then, he, McGregor, Blunt and the other actors come up with wonderful acting details.  I particularly liked a scene where McGregor is looking for the right picture to illustrate a caddis fly monograph.  He shuffles absent-mindedly through pictures of caddis flies from a high-powered microscope, hoping to find something that will appeal to “modern readers.”
            With its wit, great acting, striking settings, wit and the exploration of believing, this is a great, must see movie for celebrating spring and optimism.

No comments:

Post a Comment