January 30, 2005

MOVIES: La Grande Seduction (Jean-Francois Pouliot, 2003)

English title: Seducing Doctor Lewis.

Ste. Marie is an isolated fishing village of 120 people that has fallen on hard times. The residents may be able to persuade a factory to come to town, which would provide jobs for everyone, but the factory's owner insists that the town must have a resident doctor. When they manage to finagle a one-month visit from a Montreal doctor, the villagers set out to convince him that Ste. Marie is the town of his dreams.

This is light-hearted comedy in the mold of (though far better than) Waking Ned Devine. Dr. Lewis is oblivious to the town's frantic attempts to impress him, which include the sudden appearance of beef stroganoff on the diner's menu, and the town's inexplicable preference for cricket over hockey.
It's not a deep movie, but it does take seriously some issues that we don't often see addressed in movies -- the shame of being unable to support one's family without government assistance, the slow death of a community, the need to be useful. When the ringleader of the villager's scheme, Germain, finally explains to Dr. Lewis why they've spent nearly a month lying to him, it's a moving moment.

The lead performances from Raymond Bouchard as Germain and David Boutin as Dr. Lewis are both very good, and the father-son relationship that starts to develop between them is sweet; Bouchard does a fine job of getting across the mixed feelings he has in taking advantage of that relationship with a man he's genuinely come to like.

There are moments when the movie drags a bit, and some of the supporting performances are a bit too broad, but on the whole, La Grande Seduction is a charming treat.

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