The Grand Seduction
There's this phrase, "the idiot plot," that comes in handy quite often when writing or talking about films. Roger Ebert popularized that term. It refers to any movie where the narrative can only move forward and complete itself by way of the characters in the film being complete and total idiots. "The Grand Seduction," directed by Canadian stalwart Don McKellar and remade quite faithfully from a previous European picture, is a movie driven by an idiot plot. It's pleasant, occasionally funny, relatively well-made, and yet it's intensely frustrating every step of the way.
In this case, the idiot is Taylor Kitsch. He plays Dr. Lewis, who recently got nabbed at an international airport trying to sneak a small bag of blow onto his flight. Here's the thing: The person who caught him is the former Mayor of a small fishing town named Tickle Cove. The denizens of the Cove live mournfully off government welfare, as all the fishing dried up years ago. Their town is being considered as a possible site for a factory underwritten by a major corporation, though (it would be used to reconvert oil waste into something more productive, which emerges as a rather over-the-top metaphor for the second chances the characters find), but if they're to earn the factory, they need a town doctor. The Mayor, offering Kitsch's character either this or prison, sends Dr. Lewis their way to serve out an unofficial 30-day sentence as Tickle Cove's doctor.
That's where the idiot plot kicks in, courtesy of the original film's script and this remake's screenwriters (Michael Dowse and Ken Scott.) The town -- led by Brendan Gleeson's Murray French -- decides to do everything in its power to keep Dr. Lewis living in Tickle Cove. So they start wiretapping his phones, spying on him, concocting plots for him to find loose change and loose women... they do everything possible to make him feel like Tickle Cove is some sort of utopia beckoning his name. And he doesn't realize what they're doing. The town finds out he loves cricket, so they pretend to love cricket, and though he has numerous conversations with them about it, he never realizes they don't know what they're talking about. They hear his father is dead, so the next day Gleeson is acting ludicrously patriarchal, and yet Dr. Lewis doesn't bat an eye. They even convince him that the town's "prettiest" woman -- who always treats him, face to face, as an annoyance -- is completely in love with him. He buys it, hook and line.
Through all the improbably scripting, Kitsch remains a standout, though (considering that we've long been aware of just how good Gleeson is, his work never really qualifies as "standout"). The young actor again proves that he has a lot more to offer than either "Battleship" or "John Carter" suggested; he's got a magnificently likeable charm to him -- he's always wearing a smile, and downright miraculously, it never once feels false. You like this man so much that you believe a whole town would run a long con just so that he'd move in. You like this goofball so much that you believe he'd spend a month in an off-the-grid fishing town as a penance for a coke addiction. You like this idiot so much that you wish you could watch him play something other than an idiot.