Phone operators eavesdrop on the doc's racy conversations.
The Grand Seduction takes place in the small sea harbor of Tickle Head, Newfoundland, where the fishing industry has dried up. People line up once a month for welfare checks, cash them, and then return to their idle ways. Some, including the disheartened mayor, have opted for jobs in the capital city of St. John's. When his wife chooses to do the same, Murray French (Brendan Gleeson) is shaken out of inaction. It seems an oil company is willing to build a petrochemical byproduct repurposing facility in the former fishing village, but there's a catch. Tickle Head has no resident doctor, one of the requirements of the contract.
It just so happens that hotshot plastic surgeon Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch) got popped for cocaine possession recently. He gets one month of community service and heads to Tickle Head. Murray and the town rally to make that four-week stay so enchanting that he has no other course but to settle down and start a practice.
The Grand Seduction is an English-language remake of a 2003 Quebecois film that hit the States as Seducing Dr. Lewis. Earnestly directed by Don McKellar (Last Night), it falls snugly into the "small town with an abundance of quirky characters attempts to overcome an obstacle via subterfuge" genre. Do scenes of quirky characters ineptly trying to learn to play cricket (a passion of the doctor's) sound hilarious? Do you find the idea of elderly switchboard operators giggling over Paul's mild phone sex with his girlfriend a comedic gold mine? Does the inevitable soul-searching people do when they realize they're lying manipulators sound like a rewarding, cathartic experience? If you've answered yes to any of those questions, you may enjoy The Grand Seduction.
To me, this movie seems like a not-so-subtle attempt by the Newfoundland tourism board to boost visits from out-of-towners or perhaps one of those sentimental films you can take your grandmother to. Gleeson has never met a role he hasn't inhabited completely, and Kitsch, looking like Sam Rockwell's baby brother, pairs with him nicely.
Unfortunately, the film's light and breezy tone is offset by weird undercurrents. Murray only gets off his ass when he realizes his wife would become the breadwinner of the family, and a girl's virginity is considered as an incentive to keep the doctor in town. By the end of the story, when everyone's happy as can be, working in the repurposing plant, I couldn't help but read the film as some sort of strange, rural corporate-recruiting propaganda, an odd note to end on.
The Grand Seduction is mildly arousing, but don't set your expectations too high.