The Grand Seduction
Likeable, Ealing-esque comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch
Canadian screenwriter Ken Scott is no stranger to the remake treatment: his French-Canadian comedy Starbuck was remade twice (as Vince Vaughn vehicle Delivery Man and French version Fonzy) and now his French-language comedy La Grande Séduction (also known as Seducing Doctor Lewis) has been remade as The Grand Seduction. The result is a likeable, whole-town-gets-involved-in-a-deception comedy along the lines of Waking Ned.
Set on the fictional Newfoundland island of Tickle Head, the film stars Brendan Gleeson as Murray, an ex-fisherman who's seen the entire community demoralised by prohibitive fishing quotas that have forced everyone onto welfare. Murray sees salvation in a proposed petrochemical reprocessing factory, but there's a catch: the corporation behind the plant won't sign off until Tickle Head can prove that it has a resident doctor. After tricking big-city doc Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch) into taking the job for a month, Murray recruits the entire town into persuading Paul that he should move to Tickle Head and take the job on a permanent basis.
Gleeson is in his element as the town's scheming but good-hearted hustler, while Kitsch is perfectly cast as nice-but-dim Paul, to the point that you never question for a second that he wouldn't twig what's going on. In addition, director Don McKellar gets plenty of comic mileage out of the set-up, filling the cast with charming small-town characters and pulling off some amusing set-pieces and running jokes, such as the two old ladies diligently recording Paul's phone conversations. However, if there's an irony intended in the fact that the proposed factory is liable to bring pollution to the island, it goes completely uncommented on by the script.
Despite some occasional wobbles, this is a charming small-town comedy in the Ealing tradition, while Douglas Koch's attractive cinematography is almost enough to make you consider relocating to Newfoundland. Almost.
Selected release from Fri 29 Aug.