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The Grand Seduction – Movie Review

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The Grand Seduction – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

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There is something about the story of a city mouse in a small town that is immediately appealing. Maybe it’s the notion of escape and taking a break from the noise and smog of a big metropolis, but films like Local Hero and Cars have a genuine goodness as they tell these stories. Add The Grand Seduction to the list, an English-Canadian remake of a French-Canadian movie from a decade ago. In a twist from the usual conventions of this storyline, a lot of the focus is on the citizens of this small Newfoundland harbour rather than the young doctor who finds himself there. That works in the film’s favour as it gives them more development and characterization than just being the wacky townsfolk, thus giving it a further amount of charm.

There’s a genuine sincerity on display in The Grand Seduction, even though it’s about an entire lying town. Tickle Cove and its mayor don’t fib to the doctor out of malice, but out of concern for the harbour’s future. Thus, the movie never feels mean-spirited and the characters are never unlikeable, seemingly taking advantage of a nice doctor. Through the course of the film, the audience gets to know these characters and the history of this cove. There’s a level of sympathy there without it getting too schmaltzy. Dr Lewis is a regular guy stuck in Tickle Cove, but he never feels contempt towards its smallness and the community that lives there. All of the characters feel like real people who might inhabit such a small locale. There is not even a villain in the movie as even the oil company, who the town desperately wants in order to gain employment, is not portrayed as a stereotypical monster as so often seen in films. This heightens the comedic elements and the character moments.

The screenplay is consistently funny, going more for subtle jokes rather than being loud and uproarious. The actors bounce off each other very well and everyone’s reactions are played with the right amount of nuance and believability. Brendan Gleeson brings a real sense of enthusiasm and excitement as the newly appointed mayor of Tickle Cove, but also a lot of desperation as he tries to court Dr Lewis. Taylor Kitsch is becoming one of those actors whose presence is always welcome and he is instantly likeable. One sequence, in particular, where he finds himself performing check-ups on everybody in town, is one of the highlights of The Grand Seduction. Kitsch has mostly done action roles, but he shows a good knack for comedy in this film. Gordon Pinsent plays against type here, being given some of the funniest lines and providing the right facial expressions as Mayor French’s closest cohort. He’s the kind of character you always imagine with a beer in both hands, but Pinsent doesn’t make him a caricature. Mark Critch has his own interesting story-arc as a bank manager trying to keep his job respectable in these changing times and attempting to keep calm and honest while the “grand seduction” is in motion. After over a decade on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Critch shows his ability at playing more than just sketch comedy and impromptu parliament visits.

There’s a friendly atmosphere and simplicity to The Grand Seduction that makes it instantly likeable. It’s not a revolutionary story, but director Don McKellar and screenwriters Michael Dowse and Ken Scott tell it with the right level of sweetness and humour without becoming overly syrupy. Every actor fits their part perfectly and the camaraderie between them is definitely evident on-screen. While Canadian cinema is mostly known for the likes of David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan, The Grand Seduction shows they are just as capable at telling simple unassuming stories that warm the heart and showcase some of the country’s more naturalistic elements, a far cry from the CN Tower and the Parliament Building.

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Review By: Stefan Ellison

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