‘Grand Seduction’ a perfectly cast, beautifully pitched comedy

Published on May 28, 2014
(From left) Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch and Gordon Pinsent, three of the stars in the film “The Grand Seduction,” which opens Friday.  — Photo by Marlène Gélineau Payette /Max Films

The Grand Seduction
Directed by Don McKellar
Written by Michael Dowse and Ken Scott
Tickle Cove, N.L. is an outport in trouble. Its once-thriving fishery has been shutdown by the moratorium. Its business has dwindled to the post office, where the welfare checks come in the mail, the bank, where they get cashed, and the bar, where they are spent. The population is ebbing away. There’s no work and no future.

But then — a glimmer of hope. A major oil company is interested in setting up a plant there. That means jobs, and more — it means survival. But there’s a catch.

The company won’t consider Tickle Cove as a possible location unless it has a doctor.

This possibility seems so remote even Tickle Cove’s mayor (Larry Barry) abandons hope and home and takes employment in town.

But his new post introduces him to Dr. Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch), and gives him the means to coerce the doctor into a month-long practice in Tickle Cove. Now it’s up to the inhabitants to convince the doctor to stay.

Let the seduction begin.

Murray French (Brendan Gleeson) is determined to make it happen. Murray used to fish, and he knows that life is gone, but he won’t simply let Tickle Cove die. The town needs the plant. The plant requires a doctor, ergo, that doctor is staying.

And everyone has a role to play in persuading Paul that Tickle Cove is absolutely made for him.

So they make it for him. They refresh the beach, redecorate their houses and internationalize the local restaurant’s cuisine. The doctor likes cricket? All hands don whites and start practising their underarm bowling.

He listens to jazz? Let the be-bopping begin.  He’s never fished?

Time to cast that line — and Murray will make sure it doesn’t come back empty.

All this takes organization, of course. Murray is ably backed by his friend Simon (an absolutely game Gordon Pinsent), and banker Henry Tilley (Mark Critch, as good as you’ve ever seen him, which is saying something). In fact, it takes a bit of subterfuge, even surveillance (one of the many funny scenes has an increasingly hot and bothered Mary Walsh eavesdropping on a very personal phone call between Paul and his girlfriend).

But, with all these shenanigans, Murray begins to fear there’s a danger of social and ethical lines getting crossed.

Where does the seducing end and the sheer lying begin?

“The Grand Seduction” is a comedy, and a beautifully pitched and carried out one, but it doesn’t lack for depth. And it’s a very good movie.

All the roles are perfectly cast and skillfully directed (even the actors with one scene, like Sheila Redmond as a waitress, nail it). If you’re worried that Newfoundland is presented as any kind of cliché, don’t be.

The tone is never disrespectful, the cinematography is lovely, and Gleeson pulls off the best Newfoundland accent since Jackie Burroughs in “John and the Missus.” (In the Q&A following the premiere, Gleeson thanked Critch for calling him in Ireland and reading the entire script to him.)

“The Grand Seduction” opens at the Cineplex in St. John’s on Friday.