Great films have been made with stories that are not obviously cinematic. Also, some great films have been made with various shifts in tone. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen fits both of these criterion, but it is the farthest thing from a great film.
Sold, as a sweet romantic comedy about two individuals finding love while trying to unite the world with salmon fishing, it is actually a despicable film filled with twist and turns that even some soap opera writers would reject. Also, there’s this subplot about islamic extremists that is completely uncalled for and interrupt the film the few times it finally has a nice groove going on. Perhaps it could have worked if the director had not gone with the usual tone of the average romantic comedy and if these extremists had not come out of nowhere at random times. I mean, he even managed to get a terrible performance out Kristin Scott Thomas, so that’s some really shitty work he did here.
At least Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor were charming and had some good chemistry.
Much like the main characters’s take on relationships, Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends With Kids wanted to be different from the problematic Hollywood romantic comedies. For a while it succeeds with the biggest stars in the cast not playing the leads, the relatively lo-fi look, the slow pace, and some down-to-earth look at what makes a relationship work and not work. But then the third act happens and it becomes just another Hollywood romantic comedy with an ending made to please the lowest common denominator. And that retroactively makes some of the things that made it stand out to begin with, such as the slower pace, look like poor filmmaking.
With that said, there were a few things to admire about it. Adam Scott is great and I’m glad someone gave him the chance to play the leading man in a film. I did love some of the darker, more realistic material, mainly the John Hamm/ Kristen Wiig subplot. And as far as directorial debuts go, Westfeldt’s is actually pretty good. She has a good eye for compositions, and unlike many directorial debuts it seems assured, as if someone with more experience was behind the camera.
In the end, I enjoyed Friends With Kids, but its problems are too big to ignore.
Speaking of films with problems, here is one with lots of them. The story is the same old “people who loath each other find out they have lots in common ” thing. The characters are tired archetypes, from the famous author with block looking for inspiration, to the bitchy American assistant who lives to please his employer. Also, there’s a very creepy subplot about this paparazzo who has followed Alice Eve’s character for pretty much all her career since she was fifteen, and now he is in love.
But I still could not help but fall for it. It embraces this problems and all it wants to give us is a charming and harmless romantic comedy. It has its heart in the right place, and as a result some of the more tearjerker moments don’t feel too forced. But most importantly, the two main performances are great. David Tennant is his usual charming and nerdy self and so he won me over (plus the Whovian in me got happy every time he said he was marrying Lara Tyler, imagining for two seconds that he was saying “Rose Tyler”). Kelly Macdonald, meanwhile, with this and her great work in Brave could end up in my list of the top 10 actresses of the year. She’s just so charming, so into the role, that I could not help but fall for her. And my god, that voice! I could just lie there and listen to her all day.
Many will hate The Decoy Bride due to its unoriginal nature, but for me it was more than enough for an afternoon when you want to watch something fluffy and harmless.