Monday, May 26, 2014

If Don McKellar's THE GRAND SEDUCTION seems, sounds and looks awfully familiar...

...that's because a mere decade separates this new English-language film from its French-language predecessor, of which it is a remake: La grande séduction (released here in the USA in 2004 as Seducing Dr. Lewis). Having now seen and enjoyed both films, they really don't seem that different -- except for the language spoken, the casts and the film-making crew. The only prominent name I recognize from both is that of Ken Scott, who wrote the original and is credited as co-writer, with Michael Dowse, on the new version. The director is one of my favorite Canadian filmmakers, Don McKellar (whose Last Night remains the best film ever made about the end of the world).

TrustMovies was initially surprised that Mr. McKellar, shown at right, would choose a project like THE GRAND SEDUCTION, which is about as mainstream/
independent as storytelling gets: utterly old-fashioned and feel-good as all heck. After all, this actor/writer/
director is more often involved with edgier, satirical stuff (like Childstar or his legendary performance in the Canadian TV classic Slings and Arrows). Still, the fellow recently reached the half-century mark so maybe the onset of age and maturity has given him an appreciation of things a tad more traditional and conventional. Whatever: McKellar proves a fine helmer of this sweet, funny tale of a harbor island town and its tiny populace who lie, cheat, and bribe their way to success.

Success for this little town, by the way, means finding a doctor (played by Taylor Kitsch, above) willing to set up shop permanently, so that a large corporation that has chosen the town as one of its "finalists" will then build a promised factory there that can employ its long out-of-work men and women. The biggest difference between the earlier film and the current one has almost nothing to do with the film-making process (both are handled professionally: well written, directed and acted) and everything to do with the current economy of most of the world.

With unemployment on the rise and money scarce, so much has changed since 2003 when the first of the two films was made. Our current state of affairs gives the new film an extra charge of anger and sadness because, as it clearly pointed out in the course of the film, the new factory that supposedly recycles waste material will simply be a sop to environmen-talists by showing that the corporate world -- yes, the same one that already controls everything -- actually "cares" about the environment.

Still, the new mayor of the village (the always fine Brendan Gleeson, above and below) knows that the factory will at least employ him and his mates, and so he sets about corralling the populace to do anything and everything to convince the doctor of what a fine little village this is and how much he will want to be a part of it.

All this leads to lies large and small, of every sort, from sports to love to even proving to the factory hotshots that the village has double its actual population. (The morality here would definitely fall under "the ends justify the means" philosophy.) This is silly but generally endearing and because McKellar uses a deft hand at not overdoing things -- this is especially true of the relationship between the doctor and what seems to be the town's only attractive woman (Liane Balaban) -- we follow along and buy into this very large wad of tasty taffy.

The Grand Seduction -- from EntertainmentOne, running 112 minutes, and featuring particularly lovely opening and closing segments -- hits theaters this Friday, May 30. In Los Angeles it opens at The Landmark in West L.A. and in New York City, at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

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