This utterly beguiling, comfort-food remake of the French-Canadian film La Grande Seduction is about adorable residents of an impoverished fishing harbor in Canada who come up with a plan to bring a recycling factory and all of its jobs to their town. The men in the community lost more than their jobs when the fishing industry collapsed. They lost their self-respect and their sense of purpose. Also, apparently, their sense of their manhood.
But the factory will not come to town unless they have a local doctor, some cash for a side payment, and enough locals to staff the new facility. They can finesse the cash and scare up a few extra bodies. But the doctor is a challenge. Murray (the always-superb Brendan Gleeson) comes up with a preposterous plan. When a handsome young doctor named Paul (Taylor Kitsch), giddy over an athletic triumph, celebrates a little too much and a small bit of cocaine is found in his luggage at the airport, a combination of a some light blackmail gets him to the harbor and a massive “Truman Show”-style fantasy is set up to persuade him that he has found paradise. They discover that he likes cricket, so soon all of the women are dying clothes white to create cricket uniforms and the men are pretending to play a game they know nothing about and to love watching it on television at the pub, cheering whenever something may possibly have happened. They listen to his favorite music. They cook his favorite meals. And when they discover he lost his father, Murray takes him fishing and tells him about his (fictional) late son. Of course there is someone from the town under the water making sure that there’s a fish on Paul’s hook, just as Murray is skillfully baiting his metaphorical hook to reel in the doctor himself.
Director Don McKellar knows how to keep the movie sweet without becoming cloying, partly by being frank about the devastating impact of the town’s economic collapse. The specificity of the sense of place also lends weight to the storyline, its exquisite, pristine beauty and its precariousness. And then there is the superbly chosen cast, anchored by Gleeson, who keeps a twinkle in his eye but shows us the real pain and longing of the men who have been deprived of the essence of their sense of themselves. He knows that sometimes crazy times require crazy solutions. And while it may not be true that he lost a son, it is true that he has lost a great deal and that the chance to be something of a father figure to a young man heals something inside him. The wonderful Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent (“Away From Her”) and Liane Balaban (TV’s “Supernatural”) create warm, witty characters as well. It is especially nice to see Kitsch get a chance to play a nice, regular guy. Paul believes what is going on not because he is gullible but because he would really like to believe there is a place as perfect for him as this one. And we go along because we would, too.
Parents should know that this film includes sexual references, some strong language, a brief incident involving cocaine, and pub drinking and tipsiness.
Family discussion: Why was having jobs so important to the way the people of this community felt about themselves? What was the worst lie they told?
If you like this, try: “Waking Ned Devine” and “The Full Monty,” along with the original French language version of this film.