Slightly charming and mostly simplistic, Don McKellar’s The Grand Seduction feels made for Netflix’s Watch Instantly feature — pleasant enough, but mostly forgotten with your next selection.
The breezily told comedy is set in Tickle Head, an industry-less harbor in Newfoundland whose denizens collect unemployment checks every week. When Mayor Murray French (Brendan Gleeson) learns that a chemical manufacturer considering building a plant in town requires a local doctor, which Tickle Head doesn’t have, he’s forced to enlist the town in an elaborate ruse: They will “seduce” temporary resident Dr. Lewis (Taylor Kitsch) to stay by radically reshaping Tickle Head’s culture to dovetail with his personal interests. The goofy conceit could prove winning with strong execution, and occasionally does (Lewis’s landline is tapped, and in the film’s best scene, two elderly women wind up eavesdropping on some phone sex).
But too often the storytelling feels undercooked. For example, Lewis loves cricket, so the townsfolk, who know nothing about it, pretend to play as he arrives. Lewis drops by the game, and the players have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing.
It could be the setup for a hilarious yet anxiety-inducing scene, but instead McKellar just has the players pretend the game is over. The same can be said of the handling of the obligatory scene in which the truth is revealed.
Still, the endearing nature of the characters, especially Gleeson’s Murray, provides some pleasure.