Director: Don McKellar
Writer: Michael Dowse, Ken Scott
Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Brendan Gleeson, Liane Balaban
Release Date: September 8, 2013 (Toronto International Film Festival) / May 30, 2014 (United States
The Grand Seduction affords us new territory for Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch and is absolutely worth your amusement.
The Grand Seduction is a remake of the 2003 French-Canadian film, Seducing Doctor Lewis, which won the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance back in 2003. There have been talks about an English language remake for a decade now and I'm confident in declaring that it was worth the wait. Brendan Gleeson, in one of his more likable and relatable roles, plays Murray French. He's but one of a hundred souls proud to call the Newfoundland harbor town of Tickle Head their home.
The film's prologue is a classically draped remembering of his life as a child: their fathers would go out each night carrying lanterns to their fishing boats in order to earn a living and then come back home to the warmth of their wives. The Tickle Head of today is shed of that romantic and nostalgic lens and is in serious financial trouble. Murray's wife wants a better life, and for that she looks to the city. All the more reason for Murray to rally the harbor-folk together to for a factory to be built in their midst. "What's does the factory make?" an unconvinced denizen asks Murray. "They make jobs." The only catch is that in order to make the cut, Tickle Head needs a doctor. They lure in Dr. Paul Lewis, a recent med school grad who is played by Taylor Kitsch, and so the seducing begins.
It's a fun premise that takes a while to set up, but once the goals are clear and the players are on the field its a blast to watch. They know very little about Dr. Lewis outside of his interest in cricket, which the whole harbor struggles to learn and love before his arrival. They tap his phone to learn more, including his rocky relationship with his girlfriend back home. There's plenty of tricks that Murray and company have up their sleeve. The chaotic planning, risky execution and consequent reaction by Dr. Lewis make for a hilarious formula that delivers throughout.
You couldn't ask for better performances out of the townsfolk. Not only do they look and feel the part, they keep their observations deadpan and their delivery well-timed. Gleeson is perfect as a patriarchal and earnest influencer for both the people of Tickle Head and on Dr. Lewis himself. Kitsch adds another notch to his acting belt with this performance. It's a small-budget dramedy and he plays the part of the flashy new fish in the faded old pond.
What's most telling about the success of The Grand Seduction is that by the end of the movie you'll have been convinced to live in Tickle Head yourself. It may not be possible to return to the golden days of yesteryear, but there is happiness to be found in the humble everyday lives of the working class.