Director: Don McKellar
Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Brendan Gleeson, Liane Balaban, Gordon Pinsent
Set in a beautifully picturesque Canadian fishing harbor town, The Grand Seduction is a charming, quirky remake of a 2003 Quebecois film, La grande séduction, released in English-speaking countries as Seducing Doctor Lewis.
Like the original film, with its clever screenplay by Ken Scott, the movie is about how the entire impoverished Newfoundland community of Tickle Head sets out to trick a naïve young big-city surgeon (Taylor Kitsch), who’s been sent there as punishment when an airport security agent discovers cocaine in his suitcase, into believing that he should stay put in remote coastal Canada. With most of the townspeople reduced to living on welfare since the collapse of the fishing industry, they desperately need a doctor to satisfy the demands of a petrochemical waste reprocessing company looking to open a factory in the tiny harbor. So they tap the doctor’s phone to learn what he likes—or they think he does—and, even with their limited means and worldly experience, they set out to create an entire way of life to accommodate the doctor’s love of curry, cricket matches and cocaine. The film basks in its own airy, good-natured eccentricity and, at its very best, it recalls the old Ealing comedies as well as better films like Bill Forsyth's Local Hero and Kirk Jones' Waking Ned Devine. This one is neither as bitingly satiric nor as winsome as it could be. Illogic and a certain queasiness keep seeping out of it, as from screenwriter-director Ken Scott's earlier Starbuck, the French import remade in the U.S. as the Vince Vaughn comedy Delivery Man. The Grand Seduction is certainly helped by the formidably gifted and always watchable Brendan Gleeson as the main perpetrator of the chicanery; he even exploits Kitsch’s longing for a father figure by teaching him to fish and lying to him that he actually lost a son at a young age.
We have every right to dislike the townspeople for their trickery and we certainly ought to be suspect about their blasé attitude toward letting slick, manipulative ecology destroyers in their midst. But any and all serious concerns get swept away by the lightheartedness and goodwill created by the gently funny script, the lovely teamwork of the cast, the stunning scenery and Don McKellar’s upbeat direction. Even a partial, sometimes clumsy seduction can have its charms.