When independent films feature a small town and a huge corporation at their core, they are usually depicted as foes like David and Goliath – the good and the average against the lumbering giant.
Local Hero from 1983 comes to mind, as does Promised Land, the recent movie about fracking in the Midwest. The Grand Seduction, however, reverses that formula, proving that the battle lines aren’t always drawn that cleanly.
Brendan Gleeson gives another delightful, full-bodied performance as Murray, a sturdy man who’s down on his luck in a humble, harbor village called Tickle Head in picturesque Newfoundland, Canada. His wife has taken a job in a distant city due to Tickle Head’s dearth of any work of substance for him and most of his male friends, forced now to live on the dole. When he and his cronies hear that a petrochemical repurposing factory is scouting locations for a new plant, the plot thickens and gels: they must do what it takes to get it there.
The company has a list of criteria, though, that the town can’t yet promise, so the residents unify around concocting ways to make it appear it’s up to the challenge. Are there enough people in the town to justify the development? Not really, but the residents choreograph an optical illusion that it does. And when they’re told they must have a full-time doctor, they set out to woo Paul, a handsome young practitioner (Taylor Kitsch) who has, so far, only committed to Tickle Head for a short stay.
While playing out a bit episodically, the episodes are nonetheless amusing and delivered with gusto, in Gleeson’s case, and vulnerability, in Kitsch’s. There’s a father-son issue bouncing back and forth between the two that never rings false even though Murray (Gleeson) has falsified his back story. What inevitably makes the movie memorable is its lovely location, painted with crisp cinematography, and a hearty, well-etched group of characters one recognizes and sincerely roots for.
The Grand Seduction| Dir. Don McKellar | 113 minutes | Playing at Glenwood Arts Theater, 9575 Metcalf, Overland Park, Kan. 913-642-4404.