JDIFF Review – The Grand Seduction

Tickle Head, a once successful and proud fishing harbour in Newfoundland, has fallen on hard times – much like the rest of the world. When a chemical processing company offers to build a factory in the harbour, it seems that all the residents’ problems are solved until, that is, the company demands the one thing the community doesn’t have, a doctor. Self-appointed mayor and charming rogue Murray (Brendan Gleeson) hatches and elaborate plan to entice doctor Paul Lewis to the island, and an even more elaborate plan to make him want to stay.

Writer Ken Scott is having a great time lately; first his film Starbuck was remade as Delivery Man starring Vince Vaughn, and now his 2003 film The Seduction of Doctor Lewis has been remade starring Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch. The Grand Seduction is a charming little tale of recession and survival and our own Brendan Gleeson turns up the charisma for the role of Murray.

Taylor Kitsch steps away from the overblown fantasy epics, and the silly overblown drug stories, for the first time since Friday Night Lights, to play a somewhat normal man thrown into an extraordinary, but relatable, circumstance. Kitsch is charming and warm, reminding us why he worked so well in Friday Night Lights, and why he continually got lost in big budget epics.

Brendan Gleeson plays a charming rogue who is not adverse to stealing welfare cheques and electricity to make ends meet. Underneath his drunken and gruff exterior is a man with a heart of gold, who is a natural leader. This kind of role is easy for Gleeson, and he excels in The Grand Seduction. The rest of the cast is made up of Laine Balaban, the love interest for Dr Lewis, and superstar of Canadian cinema, Gordon Pinsent.

The themes brought up in The Grand Seduction are universal; struggling to keep your home town alive is one that may especially resonate with Irish audiences as it seems that small Irish towns are being swallowed up. As well as this, Murray certainly feels like an Irish hero, as his roguish antics do nothing to diminish his charm. That said, however, Michael Dowse’s adapted screenplay feels a little uninspired at times as it is easy to see where these lies and antics are going to end up. Still, the journey is sort of fun and the performances coaxed from the cast by director Don McKellar are what keep the film going.

The Grand Seduction is carried by the strong and charming performances in the film. Gleeson is on fantastic form as the gruff and stubborn leader of this small town, and Kitsch is perhaps the best he has ever been on the big screen. Still, the film suffers through a feeling of familiarity and predictability, leaving it entertaining, but a little forgettable.

Rating: 3/5

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