'The Grand Seduction': Force-fed charm from Newfoundland town

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Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch (right) in "The Grand Seduction." (2014 Entertainment One Films US)

Loved Local Hero? Charmed by Waking Ned Devine?

Then go watch Local Hero and Waking Ned Devine.

The Grand Seduction, set in a snug Newfoundland harbor town, tries to approximate said films' air of whiskey-soaked whimsy and eccentric Gaelic charm. But in Don McKellar's remake of Seducing Doctor Lewis, a 2003 French-Canadian comedy, the charm feels force-fed.

The residents of Tickle Head are a sorry lot. A once-proud folk whose forebears set out in their boats, returning each evening with a bounty of fish, they've now fallen on hard times. Most of the able-bodied workers are idle, on welfare. Murray French (Brendan Gleeson) thinks he's got the system scammed, though: He's collecting his welfare check and a dead man's, too.

Tickle Head's hopes hinge on luring a new "petrochemical by-product repurposing facility" to town. But the company insists that the community have a doctor, and so Murray, suddenly aburst with civic resolve, dreams up a plan to attract a young American physician. (Yes, shades of Northern Exposure.) Dr. Lewis (Taylor Kitsch) is a cricket fanatic, and so the villagers, clueless about the sport, pretend to be similarly obsessed. They leave money on the streets for the good doctor to find. And Murray tries to persuade Kathleen (Liane Balaban), the dreamy-eyed local postmaster, to throw a few flirtatious looks the doctor's way.

The Grand Seduction aspires to be a merry lark - a whole community in the throes of subterfuge, listening in on phone calls, hushing, shushing, as Dr. Lewis tends to his new patients and tries to figure out why everyone is being so gosh darn nice.

But what will happen when he discovers the deception, as surely he must?

Let's all go down to the pub, where the locals take to their fiddles and accordions, and find out. Yes, the jig is up.

 


The Grand Seduction ** (Out of four stars)

Directed by Don McKellar. With Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch, Liane Balaban. Distributed by eOne.

Running time: 1 hour, 53 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (sex, drugs, adult themes).

Playing at: Ritz Five.


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