Review: The Grand Seduction
PLOT: in the small harbor of Tickle Cove, Newfoundland, the dying fish industry has ruined the town's economy, and their only hope of regaining prosperity is to convince an oil company to establish a factory that would lead to full employment for the town. However, the company refuses to consider the town unless they have a full time doctor. Enter the unlucky Dr. Lewis (Taylor Kitsch) who's blackmailed into being their doctor for a month, a stay the town mayor (Brendan Gleeson) hopes to make permanent by convincing him Tickle Cove is paradise. But the city boy doctor is not easily convinced.
REVIEW: THE GRAND SEDUCTION is a remake of a French language Québécois hit that got a limited American release under the title SEDUCING DR.LEWIS. Hitmaker Ken Scott, who wrote the French version, and also penned STARBUCK and the English remake THE DELIVERY MAN, is back, co-writing the English script with Michael Dowse, of GOON and the upcoming THE F-WORD (annoyingly retitled WHAT IF in it's neutered U.S form). The original film was kind of a Québécois FULL MONTY, and proved to be a local hit, so it's no surprise that it's getting an English Canadian remake, no doubt in the hopes that it'll have some crossover success in the U.S, with the added attraction of having two well-known leading men in Brendan Gleeson and former-JOHN CARTER, Taylor Kitsch.
Like the original film, THE GRAND SEDUCTION is a bit edgier than you'd think, with Lewis being blackmailed due to being caught with cocaine at customs, which just so happens to be run by the town's former mayor, who's still sympathetic to their plight. In in the original – he was busted with drugs while speeding, which makes him a bit less of an idiot than Lewis here, who somehow thought he'd be able to get through customs with drugs. Nevertheless, this is the MacGuffin, and doesn't really figure into the plot much, with Lewis shrugging it off as a one-time thing.
This is a departure for Kitsch, who did a bunch of tentpole action movies a few years ago, but didn't really breakout. Now he's doing smaller-scaled parts, and is coming off standout work in LONE SURVIVOR and THE NORMAL HEART. Here, he gets to try his hand at light comedy, and while he doesn't feel too natural in this genre, he's fine and a decent choice for a leading man as he happens to actually be a Canadian (he's from Kelowna B.C) giving this a somewhat legit homegrown feel.
One guy who's certainly not Canadian, but still manages to walk away with the movie is the always dependable Brendan Gleeson. While it's certainly no CALVARY or IN BRUGES, it's nice to see him play the lead, and he's convincing as the salt-of-the-earth former fisherman turned reluctant mayor, who’s not above scamming the government for more welfare, or bribing officials from the oil company to convince them to set up shop in Tickle Cove. My only issue is that a potentially intriguing aspect of the film, that Dr. Lewis never had a father and eventually sees Gleeson as a kind of surrogate, should have been explored more as it would have given the film a bit more heart. Instead, too much time is spent on the various scams the townspeople run to convince the doctor to stay, including making him think the whole town is cricket-crazy, with him being a devotee of the sport. Of the townspeople, eighty-something Gordon Pinsent makes the biggest impression as the town's resident acid-tongued ornery old-coot, as much a part of the town's charm as anything else. Liane Balaban, as the attractive (natch) post-mistress, is another standout, and she does solid, subtle work as the de-facto love interest, although this aspect of the story is downplayed somewhat.
While it lacks the snap of the Quebec original (although being a Montrealer I'm biased) and definitely is no LOCAL HERO, THE GRAND SEDUCTION is still a perfectly serviceable little charmer that should appeal to a decent-sized audience. It's one of those movies you might call “cute”, and it's certainly worth seeing for the solid performances and beautiful Maritime scenery.