Saturday, July 05, 2014

The Grand Seduction

Got a feeling I'm going to get excommunicated from the Chlotrudis Society for disliking this one. Don McKellar is one of the Canadian favorites of many of the long-time members, but I just don't see it, either as an actor or a director.

It was a bit surprising to see Ken Scott's name in the credits. He wrote and directed both Starbuck and its American remake Delivery Man, and I didn't realize that this movie was a remake until I saw the "based on" credit after the screenplay one. He hasn't been involved with all the remakes of his movies - there's actually a French-French version of Starbuck by the name of "Fonzy" - but I find it interesting that he stays involved when he could probably just do something else, something new.

Of course, Scott's draft of the Anglo-Canadian The Grand Seduction may be ten years old and just rewritten by Michael Dowse much later in the game. It's not as rich thematically as Starbuck, but you can sort of see where producers might like to get it into their own culture; it's an interesting enough inversion of the Doc Hollywood story that works because ithas everyone drawn in by what they want to believe and ultimately trying to make it true, even if I do think it's unstable in its construction that an inferior version has it fall apart.

The Grand Seduction

* * (out of four)
Seen 1 July 2014 at Landmark Kendall Square #8 (first-run, DCP)

The previous version of The Grand Seduction, a French-Canadian film from about ten years ago, seems to have been fairly well-regarded along with being popular enough to inspire a remake. That isn't necessarily surprising; it's the kind of story where if things break just right, something very silly can come off as quite charming. That's something the makers of this English-language version only manage fitfully, though, banking on a charm that never quite materializes.

It starts off with a nifty bit, as Murray French (Brendan Gleeson) remembers what his home town of Tickle Head, Newfoundland was like when he was a kid, with strong men standing up straight as they headed out to fish in the morning, only to have it reflected in the present by Murray and most of the rest of the town lining up for their welfare checks. The best hope they have is to lure a petrochemical plant to the area, but one of the requirements for the contract is a full-time doctor in the town. One falls in their laps when Dr. Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch) runs afoul of the former mayor (now working security in the St. John airport), who manages to get Lewis to stay there for a month, during which time the whole town puts on a show to convince him to stay.

This is a silly plot with an obvious hole that for some reason doesn't dawn on any of the characters in the film until the very end despite the fact that everyone in the audience likely picked up on it almost immediately. You can get away with it if there are enough funny or absurd things going on that the audience figures that's just the way the movie's world works, or if they're just too busy laughing, but the script by Ken Scott (who also wrote the original) and Michael Dowse not only has relatively few jokes that take a long time to play out for relatively weak punchlines, but it's loaded down with subplots like Murray's marital problems and the insecurity of the manager of the local bank office or the other things the company might want that aren't particularly funny and don't do much to increase the tension in the main story. The end is a mess of things that just don't make any sense.

Full review at EFC

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