Don’t call Tickle Cove a village. The natives don’t like it. They prefer to call it a “harbor.”
There are only a couple hundred of them still living there despite the place’s jaw-dropping scenic beauty. They used to make their living fishing cod. When they fished most of it out, the Canadian government said “no more.” For Cod’s Sake.
Lovely, but where did that leave Tickle Cove, aside from collecting welfare checks, that is? In desperate need of a “petro-chemical” giant to open a factory there so that they could all live with pride and not on the dole. There’s a Satanic-sounding “re-purposing plant” in the offing for oil tanker waste – a positively nightmarish factory procedure but as town Mayor Murray English puts it with his indefatigably optimistic spin, it’s recycling isn’t it?
One hitch. They need a doctor in town to attract a big oil company to build their factory. They don’t have one. What self-respecting medic would live in Tickle Cove?
Thanks to a minor coke-sniffing problem, though, they get one for a month – a young hotshot plastic surgeon (Taylor Kitsch) caught with a large personal stash of blow in his luggage at the airport. A month in Tickle Cove is how he’ll do some community service.
Hence the title of “The Grand Seduction” which has – almost – nothing to do with sex whatsoever. It’s Doctor Lewis that the tiny harbor of Tickle Cove must seduce into thinking it’s the greatest little spot on earth, just the place for a would-be plastic surgery hotshot from Toronto to settle down and treat locals who might have particularly ravaging and exotic cases of Athlete’s Foot.
So they all pretend, for the new Doc’s sake, to be in perfect sync with his likes and loves and life. Does he love watching cricket on the tube and playing it? The women in town grab everything white they can find, even if it’s a little pink and sew it all together in instant cricket uniforms so that the town can pretend to have a team. (In reality, good Canadians that they are, they’re hockey mad.)
Does the doc love jazz? The town’s music guy – who happens to have the world-class fungus on his foot – is enlisted to pretend to dig it, even though he hates jazz even more than fungus, especially jazz fusion.
“The Grand Seduction” is a complete, if minor, charmer. And that’s more than enough. A smile that lasts for 113 minutes and sneaks into a chortle or a giggle now and then is a nice way to spend a couple hours, give or take.
Yes, yes, yes, you’ve seen it all before and better. “Northern Exposure” was a delightful TV series that’s a close cousin. Right off the top of our heads, we can think of two classic film comedies about struggling towns that contrive outrageous ways to save themselves – “The Full Monty,” for one from 1997 and, best of all by far, Bill Forsyth’s magical “Local Hero” from 1983, another paean to small town life in collision with “petrochemical” mega-business.
This is the Canadian, semi-Newfie take on it all in which the “petro-chemical” guys are the deliverance, not the enemy. The scenery is gorgeous, the comedy is always sweet in lieu of laughs but more than a few of those are there too. And the great central performance, as the con-man Mayor Murray French, of the great Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, is another raffish delight from the actor with elephant ears and winning self-confident patter.
Great Canadian character actor Gordon Pinsent plays his droll foil Simon.
If the movies want to keep remaking this film every 15 or 20 years with some vaguely new twists, I, for one, wouldn’t dream of arguing. I was seduced 30 years ago and I still am, even in this distinctly lesser addition to the cinematic family tree.
It’s a subject that hasn’t even begun to be fished out yet.
THE GRAND SEDUCTION
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch, Gordon Pinsent, Liane Balaban
Director: Don McKellar
Running time: 113 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for language and suggestions of sex and drugs.
The Lowdown: Financially strapped Canadian fishing village desperately needs a resident doctor to woo an oil company’s new factory.