Directed by: Don McKellar
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Brendan Gleeson, Liane Balaban, Gordon Pinsent
The sleepy Newfoundland harbour community of Tickle Head is in a bad way. The local men, once proud fishermen, are reduced to living off welfare cheques. Town Mayor Murray (Brendan Gleeson) is desperate to convince an oil company to select Tickle Head as the location for a planned chemical recycling plant. There’s one major problem though; with no town doctor, Tickle Head is ineligible to host the plant. As luck would have it, a former Tickle Head resident, now an airport security officer, convinces plastic surgeon Paul (Taylor Kitsch) to serve a month as town doctor in return for keeping quiet about the cocaine found in his luggage. Murray rallies the townsfolk in an attempt to win over Paul enough to convince him to become Tickle Head’s resident doctor. The town’s seduction technique involves a considerable amount of deceit, however, from bugging Paul’s phone for intimate details of his likes and dislikes to feigning a love of his favourite sport, cricket.
This English language Canadian film is a remake of a 2003 French-Canadian film, La Grande Séduction, but the plot of both movies owes a lot to the 1991 comedy Doc Hollywood, in which Michael J Fox’s plastic surgeon found himself reluctantly manning a rural community’s clinic as community service punishment. But it’s with 1983’s Local Hero that The Grand Seduction will draw most comparisons. That film’s template – cynical big-city hotshot grows to love the rural community he was initially dismissive of – has been reworked several times over the years; as recently as last year’s Promised Land, which saw Matt Damon attempting to sell a small farming community on the idea of gas fracking in their locale.
The Grand Seduction reverses Promised Land’s dynamic. The townsfolk of Tickle Head are the ones who are desperate to convince a dubious giant corporation into their community. “What does the factory make?” a cynical local asks Murray. “Jobs!” is his bluntly honest reply. It’s rare to see a film acknowledge that, especially in these tough times, what’s most important to the majority is having a job, regardless of how dubious that occupation might be. Murray and his cohorts even go so far as swindling a bank out of $100,000, which they use to bribe a crooked oil exec. This cynicism sits uncomfortably with the film’s general airy good nature, and leaves the movie ending on something that feels a lot more of a downer than the cheery voiceover would like us to believe.
The Grand Seduction ultimately comes up lacking in the originality department, but it has a breezy charm that makes it hard to dislike, and Gleeson is outstanding as a man who, in his words, “just wants to go to bed tired again.”
By Eric Hillis
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