The Grand Seduction is an oddly charmingly little comedy, but it feels like a tale from another era. Set in the homely harbor town of Tickle Cove, director Don McKellar attempts to make a feel good comedy about tiny white lies and humbling discoveries, but instead hones in an overly Hallmark and gimmicky breath of stale air that’s flat and weightless. I say that with a chagrin because Brendan Gleeson ranks among my favorite actors, but his witty cracks and stoic presence meant nothing while spearheading Tickle Cove’s devious plan to lock down a doctor for the long term. Again, McKellar’s film is a cutesy little story, but it’s also incredibly generic and fatally predictable – a heartwarming tale that forgets the heart.
Tickle Cove was once a proud fishing town, but after rules and regulations took over, the location became a poverty stricken stone-age where the residents resorted to living off of welfare checks. With a town in shambles, the mayor decides to book it for the big city, leaving local Murray French (Brendan Gleeson) to lead one final charge for Tickle Cove. The town’s only hope is a factory deal with an oil company that would create jobs for the entire town, but a deal can’t be inked unless a full-time doctor is located somewhere in Tickle Cove. This is where Dr. Lewis (Taylor Kitsch) comes in, stuck serving a month sentence for some border-crossing trouble he faced – unless Murray and the other townsfolk can convince the good doctor to stay. Attempting to mirror everything Dr. Lewis loves, Tickle Cove wears a facade to entice Dr. Lewis into staying – the grandest seduction of all. Can this small harbor town fake their love of cricket and jazz fusion long enough to keep Dr. Lewis around for good?
Don’t get me wrong – there’s humor to be found while Gleeson coyly acknowledges Kitsch’s adoration for cocaine (a reference to his border-crossing trouble), saying that the town is “down with it,” but the Irishman’s typical charms seem restrained. Much of the tone is built around a bunch of simpleton townsfolk who only have one working computer at Tickle Bay, terrifying ailments like “creeping athletes foot,” and absolutely no concept of big city life – but it’s a rural buffoonery more equatable to your grandparent’s humor. Little old ladies flabbergasted by foot fetishes and die-hard hockey fans attempting to learn cricket – there’s a quaint little country bumpkin vibe, but the all-too-unrelatable scenario seems overly storybooked and far removed.
Don McKellar proves to have quite the eye for visual cinematics though, turning a run-down harbor town into a vibrant seaside paradise. Capturing the rocky cliffs and luscious patches of bright green grass, color pops off the screen and truly turns Tickle Cove into an inviting setting. Certain shots captured while Gleeson and Kitsch are boating towards mainland perfectly encapsulate the physical beautification that Gleeson’s character Murray so adamantly pushes, framing the men like ants against these natural cliffside grasslands. Add in cricket players dressed all in white, and the cinematography comes together in a way that creates a picturesque scene one might find hanging above a mantel somewhere. The Grand Seduction works wonders as tourism propaganda – as long as a doctor is present.
Despite able acting, Kitsch and Gleeson have a strange chemistry that never seems off to Dr. Lewis. We watch as a string of Three Stooges inspired trickery somehow works on a heralded doctor and cutthroat businessmen, as Kitsch magically falls in love with a place harboring no bit of reasonable technology or commodity – just a loving community. Gosh, who could ever live without cellphone service and Netflix, am I right?! No, The Grand Seduction is about working your hardest every day to provide for those you love, having a fulfilling life full of pride, honor, and purpose – a mentality that might escape some modern day theorists. Tickle Cove is fighting for jobs, but Kitsch’s building love for the harbor never feels genuine, only forced and formulaic.
Normally, I’d easily get behind a film that suggests any successful day should be capped by a sexual nightcap, befitting of the proud people who slave away for their dignity, but The Grand Seduction never ends up being all that seductive. Beautiful, yes, but hokey and all too willing to squeak by with nothing but some country charms – an emotionless comedy that’s a paint-by-numbers affair. Can a small town band together and live happily ever after?! You know the answer to that question already, as The Grand Seduction quickly loses its charm before falling to the depths of a feel-good cable TV film sporting a bewilderingly abrupt ending.
Don McKellar seduces audiences with visual beauty and small town charm, but the distractions quickly lead to a formulaic feel-good story without much depth or intrigue.