The Grand Seduction
If movie heroes are more irritable than loveable, no film can succeed. Here they were dedicated to a fraud that you sadly grew to resent.
I hate to admit this, but I think that the viewing audience will prove to be the ultimate victims of the title of Director Don McKellar’s disappointing film, The Grand Seduction. Maybe I was just banking on too much for the film to deliver. Regardless, it consistently left me shaking my head.
Unfortunately, the film dealt with a premise that has played quite well in the past. Here we have a small fishing village located in St. Johns, Newfoundland, where nearly everyone is unemployed. Living on welfare and lost pride, they need to lure a doctor to their town in order to land an oil company toying with the idea of building a factory.
Similar themes worked well on TV from 1990-1995 with Northern Exposure, and resulted in a delightful little film starring Michael J. Fox in Doc Hollywood (1991). Though Mr. Fox’s Dr. Benjamin Stone was forced to stay in a small town following a traffic accident, you couldn’t help but embrace most of the townfolk despite their fraud. Here, however, the folks located on the harbor of Tickle Cove consider selfishness a virtue.
The film also suffered from the fact that most members of the town were elderly gentlemen who spent their welfare checks downing whiskey in bars. Regretting their lost opportunities on the sea, they suddenly found the possibility of hope when a young medic by the name of Dr. Lewis was assigned to spend 30 days in their town.
It almost appeared that the town was completely devoid of children and young women. The only attractive woman of any note was Kathleen (Liane Balaban) who stayed sane for unknown reasons. Our conniving group of lugs wanted her to serve as bait for Dr. Lewis, but she proved to be the only resident with a sense of honor.
Where the movie also lost its footing was with the performance of Taylor Kitsch as Dr. Lewis. It seems that he was stopped at an airport for possession of cocaine when returning to the States following a vacation, and Tickle Cove was his punishment. On top of that, Dr. Lewis was devoid of any common sense, proving to be easily misled at every turn.
What really hurts the most about criticizing this film was the fact that it starred the wonderful Brendan Gleeson as Murray French, the heavily bearded, whiskey swilling leader of the Tickle Cove’s residents. Having relished his fabulous performance as an Irish police officer in The Guard (2011), I couldn’t help but feel that he would emulate that role here. However, he was a con man, nothing more and nothing less. And it was terribly upsetting how he organized two local women to secretly record all of the doctor’s phone calls when he called home to converse with a distant fiancée.
More to the point, if you want to watch a similar film that will completely capture your heart, then go see one of the great films every made, Local Hero (1983). Though the scenery in The Grand Seduction is appealing, the cinematography in Local Hero was magical.
Burt Lancaster plays a wealthy Texas oilman attempting to quietly buy a Scottish village to build an oil refinery, and he uses an employee played by Peter Riegert to get the job done. It involves ubiquitous locals who love to have a good time, a beautiful beach combing woman with webbed feet and a fantastic married couple running the local hotel who can’t resist having sex.
See The Guard and Local Hero and leave The Grand Seduction on the shelf.