Canada Release Date: 05-30-2014
Directed by: Don McKellar
- Brendan Gleeson, as
- Murray French
- Taylor Kitsch, as
- Dr. Lewis
- Liane Balaban, as
- Gordon Pinsent, as
- Mark Critch, as
- Henry Tilley
- Anna Hopkins, as
- Helen (voice)
- Rhonda Rodgers, as
- Cathy Jones, as
- Barbara French
- Peter Keleghan, as
- Steve O'Connell, as
- Sean Panting as
- Ernest French
Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch in The Grand Seduction
As of 2011, Quebec born writer/director Ken Scott had some half a dozen scripts made into movies that were barely seen outside of Canada. Then suddenly in 2013 it was decided that his work was worthy of a larger audience. His 2011 comedy Starbuck, was given a redo by Hollywood, starring Vince Vaughn and renamed The Delivery Man. A French version, set in Paris, was also made with the name changed to Fonzy. Scott’s 2003 film, Seducing Doctor Lewis, which won him the Audience Award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, was remade into The Grand Seduction with an internationally recognized lead cast. It was given some festival showings in 2013 before getting released in Canada and Europe in 2014. It only received a limited release in the United States.
The reason for that limited release may have been due to the fact that we already had this film released here in 1991, only it was called Doc Hollywood and starred Michael J. Fox. Although The Grand Seduction is not an actual remake, the similarities are obvious, especially at first. In both films a Doctor gets into some legal trouble and is sentenced to practice medicine for a period of time in a small town, populated with mostly kind hearted yokels. Although they both start the same way, the two films quickly move in different directions.Fox played a snob who spent much of the film looking down on the small town residences. Taylor Kitsch as Doctor Lewis does not so much look down on the population but simply has little in common with them.
The Grand Seduction of the title speaks of a plan put into place by the out of work fishermen to get a factory built in their town if they can prove to the company’s board that the town has a full time practicing Doctor. Led by old sea dog Murray French, Brendan Gleeson, the town folk decide to make Tickle Head, Newfoundland the ideal spot for this doctor to settle. After some investigation, they discover that Lewis likes Cricket and so a field and team are quickly assembled even though none in town has ever played it.
He is given the “nicest” house in town to live in. As his cell does not get any reception, Lewis is forced to use the homes land locked phone which has been tapped by the locals. Two old women listen in and report what they hear. When they discover he likes jazz, the only man close to Lewis’s age is set up to be his friend, requiring that he listen to jazz music even though he cannot stand it. The funniest scene with the old ladies is when Lewis has phone sex with his fiancé.
Murray even asks the town’s only young woman, Kathleen, to flirt with Lewis. She however, knows that he is engaged and refuses. Still, the two meet and have very subtle moments of chemistry. Lewis assumes Kathleen will be an easy go, showing up at her door one night only to be quickly turned away. Their relationship is one of the weaker aspects of the script and should have been better explored.
Murray meanwhile, takes Lewis fishing, where the two men begin to bond. They share with each other that Murray lost a son that would be close to Lewis’s age while Lewis tells Murray of his lack of a father. In fact, the whole town starts too genuinely like Lewis, which creates a huge problem when they learn he in turn likes them. If he stays they either have to tell him the truth and admit that all of these people just pretended to be his friend and risk losing him or continue to act as if they like jazz and Cricket.
One of my favorite moments is when Lewis and some fishermen are in the town bar watching a cricket match. Lewis is watching with eager anticipation while the men feign interest. As soon a Lewis goes to the bathroom, they change the channel to a hockey game. When Lewis hears the men cheer, he assumes he is missing something exciting in the cricket match.
The Grand Seduction is loaded with charm.The towns folk of Tickle Head Harbor are the kind you would love to have for neighbors. The women have morals and the men have honor. Most of the town is embarrassed to be on welfare. They wish they could all return to sea but will settle for a factory, even though they have no clue what it produces. Not only will you like these people but the location shots are so beautiful that you may find yourself looking up Newfoundland for your next weekend getaway. I sure hope Ken Scott keeps writing, I thoroughly enjoy his written approach to life experiences.
Photos © Copyright Max Films Productions (2014)