Review: The Grand Seduction
A beautiful slice of Canadiana takes over in The Grand Seduction, a film about a small town of desperate liars and cheats, but all of whom are so loveable and dedicated that we can look beyond their measures to their motives.
This Don McKellar remake of a 2003 Quebec film finds a new setting in gorgeous Newfoundland, where the small town of Tickle Head is in need of a doctor to secure a dubious, likely environmentally harmful yet job-producing factory contract.
Murray French (Brendan Gleeson) leads his town in welcoming (well, blackmailing) the young attractive Dr. Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch) to town for a month of whimsy and temptation in the hopes he will sign a contract with the small fishing village.
So they lie. A lot. And they eavesdrop and spy. It becomes less seduction and more bamboozlement, as the population of 120 pretends to enjoy cricket instead of hockey, while individually one man decides to drop a fiver on the boardwalk every evening so the doctor can find it, and Murray fakes having lost a son because Paul actually lost a father.
It’s not especially grand either, but instead formulaic with the light-hearted moments obscuring and simply ignoring what are basically disgusting fabrications made on the part of the town. That is to be ignored, as is too the subject of the potential harm to be caused by the petrochemical byproduct repurposing plant (that’s just a fancy term for jobs).
That’s not important, but because the film shies away from the serious and grave, it’s hard to feel the desperation of the townspeople too; it’s a warm and fuzzy farce, not a commentary on the struggles of small-town Canada.
It recalls Delivery Man, another recent virtually point-for-point remake of a Quebec film (Ken Scott wrote and directed both, and here is co-writes alongside Michael Dowse) meant only to appeal to a wider audience. It’s worthy, but the only thing new here is the setting and the faces.
The picturesque allure of Newfoundland is on full display, and while the stars themselves are individually winning, from a charming Gleeson to a likeable Kitsch, a luminous and underused Liane Balaban and the very funny comedian (and Newfoundland native) Mark Critch, the whole doesn’t quite stack up to anything potent.
Neither do the jokes align, as quips about cocaine and sexual euphemisms alternate with physical comedy and some cute and folksy recurring gags to make an incongruent amalgamation of comedy. It’s a bookended by an odd bit about being satisfied at the end of the night, also peculiar.
Still, Newfoundland deserves to get its day in the sun, as does this Canadian cast and crew. It’s the film version of a poutine – not the basic, but one that is stacked and piled on. There is a lot going on, and some of it works, but about three quarters of the way through, you’re all done and good to go.