Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
The Grand Seduction
Don McKellar (Childstar) delivers a pleasant and cozy lark in "The Grand Seduction", a remake of the French 2003 comedy "Seducing Dr. Lewis" by Jean-François Pouliot. Set in Newfoundland and Labrador, the film has echoes of other farces "Waking Ned Devine", "The Mouse That Roared" and "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming". All of these films hinge on either money, saving face or both.
Here, Murray (Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges) is a down and out fisherman in a barnacled harbor. Over bottles of ale, Murray attempts to motivate the woolly, ginned up and pickled residents, all to no avail. These sweater loafers have scarcely a chance, it seems, in recapturing the respect they once had as a working fishery.
Murray gets an epiphany. If the harbor can hire a willing doctor these weedy folks can become a functioning community and further entice an oil plant to move in, giving back Tickle Head's standard of living.
Enter the young six pack of abs, Dr. Lewis, (Taylor Kitsch) a kind of Dudley Do-Right cosmetic surgeon. Lewis is blackmailed into trying the harbor community out for size, halting his plans to attend to a boy needing surgery in a big Canadian metropolis.
Through some nasty eavesdropping, Murray discovers that the doctor loves cricket and young women. Murray convinces the inhabitants to learn cricket, possibly luring the dashing but dense Lewis to stay.
The main fun in the hijinks is in seeing just how far Murray will go and in watching the actor Brendan Gleeson get more and more worked up as he did so wonderfully in "The Guard" and "In Bruges".
With this outing, Gleeson is a bit less hostile and there is a warm twinkle in the eye, but he is still magnetic, providing the expected bouts of volatility. Gleeson makes a fine orange-haired Popeye of sorts and no matter what he does, he propels the eye, usually becoming the highlight of many films.
As fate would have it, Popeye himself---Robin Williams--- was rumored to have been offered this role but backed out.
All to the good. Gleeson gives his role an understated quality that the manic Williams does not always show. Gleeson is truly the engine in this film.
Taylor Kitsch gives a somewhat watery performance as the bland but good natured "outsider". His role is a hybrid of Ben Braddock (The Graduate) given his nerves around the detached postal clerk Kathleen (Liane Balaban) and George Kellerman (The Out of Towners). The doctor hates everything about this fishing village of sorts and nothing goes right.
Although at times the goings-on feel like TV's "Northern Exposure" there are hints of madcap glee: microphones go haywire with feedback and the people conspire to double their occupancy by going from bar to church in order to fool the oil CEO, they don makeshift cricket attire from bedsheets.
There is a monotone, dry as Wonder Bread accountant (Mark Critch) and an old salt (Gordon Pinsent). These characters are fuzzy and warmly comical. While they don't emote any leaps or charges, the eccentrics are instantly recognizable and will give a knowing chuckle.
However, if its full belly laughs you are after, they will be given by Brendan Gleeson who once again offers some upside down irreverence combined with some Santa Claus good feeling. There is an abundance of whiskey-worn vibration within his cheeks and forehead---an elixir of sadness and hope.
He just might bring a tear to the eye.
"The Grand Seduction" makes satisfying viewing to those who like warm films with a light heart in the tradition of "Angel's Share" and "Chocolat".
The sweeping oyster-gray cinematography by itself is excellent, highlighting Newfoundland and Labrador's quaint and leaning allure. This jam-jam cookie of a film makes for an airy repast and you'll be sure to shamble out of your seat with a smile.
Write Ian at email@example.com