While Lasse Halström will always have “My Life As A Dog,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and “The Cider House Rules” to his resume, in recent years, his string of increasingly mediocre-to-terrible films have nearly erased any pleasant memories we might have had. So when his latest effort “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” popped up at TIFF, we didn’t exactly go out of our way to see it. But a curious thing happened, as amongst the chatter throughout the fest, we began to hear some good word about the film. Well, it’s now on its way to theaters and we can see why it came out of TIFF with a bit of shine.
Based on Paul Torday‘s best-selling novel and penned by “Slumdog Millionaire” scribe Simon Beaufoy, the film stars Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt and tells the story of a scientist (McGregor) who’s brought to Yemen to, yes, help introduce salmon to the Highland waters of the country, but who falls for the aide of the sheik (Blunt). And the new trailer pretty much explains why this one played well to those who saw it. It’s a magical romance set against an exotic dramedy about…the government manipulating the public with a feel good story to distract from criticism about an unpopular war? Wha? We imagine that political subtext will be played for comedy and then jettisoned. It’s shorthanded emotional uplift, with a wacky fish-out-of-water premise (pun!), packaged by two attractive leads who should know better. Fest audiences, sagging on heavier, artier dramatic fare, eat up easy stuff like this with a spoon.
Overall, this pretty much falls in line with Halström’s string of soupy, soapy movies and our only hope is that Ewan and Emily’s charms can elevate this thing into something watchable. Cast your reel on March 2, 2012.