A decade ago, Quebec released a rousingly feel-good comedy called Seducing Dr. Lewis. Early plans for an English-language remake fell through, and it wasn’t until many years later, when noted actor-writer-director Don McKellar (Last Night) picked up the reins, that the renamed The Grand Seduction went into production. The result should please the subtitle-phobic who avoided it the first time around, while delighting those who savoured – but have now mostly forgotten – the slyly amusing original.
The action has shifted from maritime Quebec to a once-thriving Newfoundland harbour, the truly picturesque Tickle Cove. This used to be a paradise for hardworking fishermen, but ever since the collapse of the fisheries the place only comes alive when it’s time for everyone to cash their welfare cheque. Rescue seems at hand when a manufacturer proposes to build a “plastics repurposing” plant there. But all those well-paying jobs come with a catch – Tickle Cove must have a resident doctor or the plant will move elsewhere. The desperate villagers arrange for the young and handsome Dr. Lewis (Taylor Kitsch, Savages, John Carter) to come for a one-month stay, and then set about trying to convince him there’s no place he’d rather be living permanently than a tiny harbour at the back of beyond.
Leading the conspiracy is Murray (great Irish character actor Brendan Gleeson), one of the most shameless rogues to ever head up a rural caper. Having been tipped off that the doc is a cricket fanatic, he’s had a bunch of the men cut down old oars into bats and then get outfitted with regulation white “uniforms” made from curtains. Two fake teams are ostentatiously playing what is
supposedly the season’s championship game on a nearby headland when the unsuspecting doctor sails into the harbour. It’s just the first salvo in a protracted campaign of deception that, in a nod to the NSA, has the town’s telephone operator (Mary Walsh) secretly monitoring his calls so that they can custom fit the town to his needs while simultaneously creating a bogus veneer of sophistication to beguile this latte-sipping urbanite. And then there’s the town’s young beauty, Kathleen (Liane Balaban, New Waterford Girl), who is reluctant to yield to Murray’s pleas to make the seduction of the good doctor a literal one.
With a solid premise and tightly structured script, McKellar takes the audience and walks them through a classic Canadian charmer. Much like one of those wacky-village comedies that Britain produced to delightful effect a decade or two ago, Grand is grand indeed. Featuring strong supporting performances from Gordon Pinsent, Cathy Jones, and several regulars on the TV hit Republic of Doyle, this has crowd-pleaser written all over it.
The grand seduction ★★★
Stars Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch, Liane Balaban, Gordon Pinsent
Directed by Don McKellar
Here’s the true story of the low-rent New Jersey gangsters who morphed into The Four Seasons and became one of the most successful pop acts of the 1960s.
This gritty post-apocalyptic thriller from Australia stars Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson, and is the newest feature from David Michod, director of the highly-praised crime drama Animal Kingdom.
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Parents will appreciate this follow-up to the immensely popular animated romp about a young Viking lad with a cute dragon for a pet. With the vocal talents of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, and Cate Blanchett.
A Millions Ways To Die In the West
Wacky writer-director Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, Ted) takes a trip to the Wild West in a comedy co-starring Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, and Sarah Silverman.