I’m entirely unsure of how The Grand Seduction, a Canadian comedy which is a remake of an earlier Canadian comedy, will be seen outside of its home country. For a lot of the time, it really does feel like a “Canadian comedy,” not one that will appeal to those who don’t have the kind of background to allow them to “get” many of the jokes. There is some universal appeal here, I’m sure, and it was absolutely hilarious to someone like me (a Canadian), but I just don’t know how it’ll translate to those overseas, or even in the more southern American states.
Here’s the story. The 120 people who live in the small town of Tickle Head are sick of collecting welfare checks and doing nothing with their lives. There’s a chance for them to get a factory built, which will bring enough jobs for everyone. Unfortunately, the business who wants to build the factory requires the town to have a doctor. Tickle Head has no such doctor. After a series of events, one is found for a 30-day trial period, during which time the townsfolk hope to endear themselves to him in hopes that he’ll stay as a permanent town fixture.
The man behind this plan is Murray (Brendan Gleeson), who essentially becomes the town mayor after the previous mayor runs away to work in the city. The doctor is Dr. Lewis (Taylor Kitsch), who loves cricket and has a long-term girlfriend back home. Wait, let me fix that. He really loves cricket. That’s important to remember.
Most of The Grand Seduction revolves around watching the people of Tickle Head attempt to charm, seduce, and otherwise convince Dr. Lewis that signing a longer contract and sticking around for a few years would be the best thing he can do with his life. They spy on him to learn what he likes and then they essentially make skits around that. He likes cricket? Well, you can bet that Tickle Head has a cricket team — even though not a single person in the town knows the first thing about the sport. Well, “has a cricket team,” anyway.
You can probably guess how all of this goes. And goes it does, as the film lasts for almost two hours and we get various takes on this premise for the majority of that running time. At times, the film almost feels like a variety of loosely connected sketches all based on this central premise. And most of them are really funny. Or, at least, they were for someone like me. Comedy is really hard to predict, and if you don’t have some sort of understanding of the cultural background the film is portraying, there’s a chance it’s not going to click with you.
But, on the other hand, if you have or can at least fake the cultural understanding necessary, you’re going to have a good time. And even if you don’t, the charm with which the film presents itself might win you over. You get a good sense of the area in which the film takes place early on, and once that’s established, its pace will draw you in and absorb you. Even if you don’t entirely “get” all the jokes or the way of life, the film’s sense of place and time will keep you engaged.
The Grand Seduction is a remake of a 2003 film, La grande séduction. It’s a French-Canadian film that you haven’t heard of and I haven’t seen, although the filmmakers tried to make it pretty close. Both films involve trying to convince a doctor to stay in a small fishing village so that a factory can be built. Here’s what I’ll say: The Grand Seduction made me want to watch the original. I wanted more of this idea even after sitting through 113 minutes of the English remake. The French film might be very similar, but it will be interesting to someday watch it.
Brendan Gleeson is charming and warm in the lead role, which has him do dishonest things for a noble cause. Taylor Kitsch needed a role like this to remind us how good of an actor he can be when not trying to headline a blockbuster action movie. Gordon Pinsent gets a lot to do as Gleeson’s character’s second-in-command. They’re all funny, all nice, all humorous, and all enjoyable to watch perform. That perfectly describes the whole film, too.
The Grand Seduction is a great watch, assuming you have some sort of knowledge of what life is like in Canada — and in particular, a small fishing village. If you don’t, you might miss some of the jokes, but the filmmakers do a good enough job to absorb you in that sort of culture. It’s funny, it’s charming, it’s sweet, and it’s a lot of fun. Its actors do a great job, and even though it’s rather long for a comedy, it never feels long. If anything, I wanted more, and will likely seek out the 2003 original French film to satisfy that desire.