The title The Grand Seduction suggests something quite grand. (The title of the French original Le Grand Seduction suggests something quite grand and French.) Rather than anything of scale though or defying expectations of anything that would impress Danny Ocean this is a small movie. The smallness is evident from the opening scenes; the folk of a small fishing community in Newfoundland want nothing more than jobs to occupy them and a homestead to warm them. Not unreasonable but events are all presented in a short-sighted, small-minded view on the world that is never challenged making this a very difficult movie to engage with.
The events of the movie see the men of the town contrive to convince blow-in doctor (Taylor Kitsch) to become a permanent resident of the town so that they then can convince a petrochemical company of the value of pitching its tent locally and return the men of the village to employment. Brendan Gleeson is lead conspirator, a man hanging onto past glories, resentful that his wife has gone to the nearest city to sort rubbish as a way to bring in money. Gleeson takes the role seriously, expectedly, but really there is nothing to the role. He was surrounded by a far more malevolent set of parishoners in Calvary, his neighbours here specialize in twee rather than cynicism and are all different shades of uninteresting. How any of them have the skill-set to apply to work in a petrochemical factory is one of a number of things handily glossed over.
As events proceed it seems the grand of the title may be in fact be the distinctly Irish take on the word. ‘Ah, sure it’s grand’. With Gleeson on board, the oddly Irish lilt to the local accents, and the narrative of small communities struggling to survive, the story does hold relevance for a modern Ireland. As to how a village of Irish men might look to go about a seduction, well, there is no easy parallel here but it is the caper or seduction of the doctor that offers the film’s few high points. Always silly, sometimes funny, the movie comes to life as the town offers promise upon promise to the doctor. None of it is believable, of course. The prognosis for the town is stark and this is juxtaposed with incredulous situations intended to draw laughs – constructing a cricket pitch on a cliff-side, multiplying the population of the town with Scooby-Doo hijinks – you might be instinctively drawn to laugh at what you know was intended to be funny, but none of it is convincing, and to boot there is some wholly misjudged humour thrown in.
All the while, there is an uncomfortable reality bubbling under that this film can’t address any of the issues it is raising. There is a sheepish acknowledgment of the potential consequences of selling out to big business and damage to the local environment but this is brushed aside in such a disatisfactory way it would have been best ignored. A comedy of course doesn’t need to be a social commentary but the movie is littered with premise and issues ripe for just that. None though are tackled with any degree of wit or smart interpretation making the whole exercise feel a bit of a waste.