Catching Up: “Salmon” and “Compliance”
I’ve already bemoaned the sad state of January movies, and no better evidence exists than the fact that the top new releases of the past two weekends have been Texas Chainsaw 3D and the Marlon Wayans spoof A Haunted House, which I fear may be even scarier than Leatherface’s latest massacre. This cinematic drought, however, has allowed me to catch up with a couple of sleepers from last year that I’d been meaning to see, especially since they’ve played a minor part in awards season. The ichthyo-romcom Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was nominated for three Golden Globes—Best Comedy, Best Actor in a Comedy (Ewan McGregor) and Best Actress in a Comedy (Emily Blunt)—and lost them all, while the little-known Ann Dowd won best supporting actress from the National Board of Review for her performance as a morally pliable fast-food supervisor in the true-crime shocker Compliance (she also earned nominations from the Independent Spirit and Critics Choice Awards).
It’s hard to think of a less enticing title than Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which was one of the factors that kept me from seeing it in theaters. Watching it on the small screen, though, it’s a thoroughly charming tale of a mega-rich sheik (Amr Waked) who funds a longshot project to bring his beloved sport of fly-fishing to the desert. In the process, he brings together an unhappily married fisheries expert (McGregor, showing his versatility by pulling off this light comedy in the same year as the dark drama The Impossible with equal dexterity) and a high-powered consultant (Blunt) whose soldier boyfriend is presumed dead in Afghanistan. Okay, it still sounds pretty dry, but the screenplay by The Full Monty/Slumdog Millionaire‘s Simon Beaufoy and direction by My Life as a Dog/Chocolat‘s Lasse Hallström maintain a gently playful tone—kind of like Bill Forsyth’s 1983 Scottish satire Local Hero, but in the Middle East.
While Salmon Fishing was based on a novel, Compliance was (as they say) inspired by true events—a truly creepy story. A perv (Pat Healy) phones a fried-chicken joint claiming to be a cop investigating an employee (Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23‘s wide-eyed Dreama Walker) accused of stealing from a customer. He instructs the poor counter girl’s boss (Dowd) and later, her skeevy fiancé (Bill Camp) to strip-search the girl, among other degrading acts. It’s all well-played, and apparently factual, but that doesn’t make you feel any less sleazy for watching it. Ultimately, there’s no point to the story, written and directed by Craig Zobel (Great Wall of Sound). You feel like you’re the one who complied—and it’s not a good feeling.
Are there any 2012 releases you’ve been meaning to catch up on? Post a comment!