Physician, Steel Thyself: Quirky Quebec Villagers Set a Trap


Crowd-pleasing, easy-to-mimic film formulas are like undetected viruses: Eventually they turn up everywhere. Witness Seducing Doctor Lewis, a French-Canadian comedy that grafts pieces—well, major organs—from the likes of Local Hero and The Full Monty to achieve something like a Gallic Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki in reverse. Suffice it to say that if you’ve always wondered how a fish out of water and a band of resourceful yokels would behave in the Quebec hinterlands, this is your movie.

The titular Dr. Lewis is a blasé, coke-snorting Montreal plastic surgeon (David Boutin) who’s coerced into a month-long hitch in a floundering rural backwater. This pointedly misnamed flyspeck, Ste. Marie-La Mauderne, requires a full-time physician in order to attract a potentially revitalizing factory, so the town’s quirky denizens (are there any other kind?) enact various ploys to get Lewis to stay on. Occasional hilarity ensues. The film’s bleak setting and downtrodden villagers are surprisingly scruffy for a routine slickster-beguiled-by-hicks flick, and Allen Smith’s radiant cinematography gives the proceedings an unusually wistful quality. But Seducing‘s running gags are as overplayed as its conclusion is foregone, and even its familiar plotting is overshadowed by a regressive nostalgia that would make the Kettles blanch: Early on, when Dr. Lewis calls Ste. Marie “medieval,” the villagers seem incredulous that he didn’t intend it as a compliment. Little wonder they’re so eager to yoke themselves to factory serfdom.