Movie review

Acting saves cliched but funny 'Grand Seduction'

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Who would want to live in the picturesque harbor town Tickle Head?

Apparently no one. In Canadian Don McKellar’s 2013 indie gem “The Grand Seduction,” a remake of 2003‘‍s French-Canadian “Seducing Dr. Lewis,” the town has gone through a massive decline since Murray French‘‍s (Brendan Gleeson) younger days, when the fishing town thrived under a united purpose and profession.

Now, most of the town’‍s largely middle-aged or elderly population collects welfare, and the community‘‍s spirit has died. Thus, when French finds out that the town is bidding to be the site of a new petrochemical factory, which would provide jobs to the town‘‍s jobless, he makes it his mission to win the bid and therefore restore Tickle Head’‍s “pride.” The problem is that the town hasn‘‍t had a doctor in eight years, but the company requires one.

'The Grand Seduction' movie trailer

The small harbor of Tickle Cove is in dire need of a doctor so that the town can land a contract to secure a factory which will save the town from financial ruin.

In comes Dr. Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch), a smooth-talking, boyish plastic surgeon — reminiscent of “that kid” you knew in college who was at once popular, a brainiac and an occasional drug user. He is caught at an airport with cocaine by none other than Tickle Head’‍s recently resigned mayor, who arranges for Dr. Lewis to live in Tickle Head for a month to avoid punishment. What ensues is an hour of highly amusing, sitcom-y antics as French orchestrates the townspeople to “seduce” Dr. Lewis into staying permanently. For instance, they all learn cricket (the physician‘‍s favorite sport) and pretend to have been physically and mentally maimed by the last “substitute” doctor, a butcher.

'The Grand Seduction'

Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch.

Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive material and drug references. 

The film’‍s outlandish plot, often very, very funny, if a little cliched, is grounded in the film‘‍s themes of community togetherness and honesty.The film also has outstanding performances by Mr. Gleeson and Mr. Kitsch, whose characters start out as foils of one another but converge at the film‘‍s climax. Mr. Gleeson convincingly tells one white lie after another — for the good of the community, he rationalizes — while Mr. Kitsch reveals Dr. Lewis not to be your average bro-next-door, but rather he’‍s a caring man who is in the job for the right reasons.

For the first three-quarters of the film, this earnestness suffices. But at the film’‍s climax — when the lies have gone too far — the conflict is resolved all-too-quickly in a matter of maybe 10 minutes, and you’re left wondering why the tension was necessary in the first place if it so easily dissipates.

And do the characters really learn their lesson? It’‍s difficult to explain the staticity of the characters without giving away plot details, but it almost seems as though they bend over backward at the film‘‍s turning point in order to ensure a happy ending.

The film’‍s disappointing outro is at least as heartwarming as the rest of the film. With a majestic score, detail-oriented cinematography and a strong supporting cast — Gordon Pinsent as the comical Simon and Liane Balaban as the rom-com trope-defying love interest Kathleen are standouts — “Seduction” is worth seeing, but not if you‘‍re looking to gain any moral standing on issues pitting groups against individuals.

Opens today at the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill. 


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