Making the Grades
For hundreds of years Newfoundland had a proud history of fishing, where men worked long hours braving the sea to provide for their families. Now the small harbor of Tickle Head, like many other ports in Atlantic Canada, is just a collection of former fishermen thrown out of work due to cod population depletions and a government imposed harvesting moratorium. The only thing the men reel in these days is their welfare checks.
But there is the possibility of hope on the horizon. The town council has been negotiating with an oil company looking for a place to build a petro-chemical recycling plant. The factory would bring jobs to the long-timers who are unwilling to move away from their multigenerational home to look for other work. Unfortunately, the company’s insurance insists the community selected has a resident doctor—which of course the isolated village is lacking. When Murray French (Brendan Gleeson) learns of this requirement, the local with questionable ethics determines to do whatever it takes (beg, bribe, and lie if need be) to woo a physician and tickle him pink at the prospect of living in Tickle Head.
The most promising (and only) candidate is Dr. Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch), a plastic surgeon who has agreed to work for one month in the remote hamlet rather than face charges for the possession of cocaine. Happily overlooking the drug incident, Murray and his buddy Simon (Gordon Pinsent) rally the rest of the village into participating in a scheme to seduce the man of medicine. First they set out to put the best possible face on their dilapidated dwellings (this entails a large litter pick-up and a lot of whitewash). When they learn Paul is an avid cricket fan, they pretend to be passionate about the sport and even assemble something that looks like a team (uniforms are sewn from tablecloths and bedspreads, while a couple of oars are cut down to make bats). As well, Murray asks the pretty, single woman running the Post Office (Liane Balaban) to adopted a flirtatious manner with the gentleman. And, to hedge their bet, they secretly tap into Paul’s telephone line so they can listen to his conversations with his fiancée and adjust their strategy as needed.
Comedy ensues as the townsfolk attempt to maintain the deception and the city-bred Paul tries to adapt to his rural surroundings (with all the grace of a fish-out-of-water). Without a doubt, the antics will keep the audience laughing even when the storyline touches on more serious themes like the plight of unemployment, the challenges of attracting essential services to small communities and the emotional pull between tradition and progress.
A Canadian made film, with a largely Canadian cast, The Grand Seduction provides a unique slice of life sure to entertain all, and make most Canadians proud. The rugged scenery and Gordon Pinsent’s character are especially authentic, creating a movie both quaint and charming. The biggest disappointments with the screenplay are the sexual dialogue, profanities and depictions of drinking. Still, for teens and adults who are willing to overlook these inclusions, plus the dishonest means the characters used to justify the ends, this Newfie tale will offer a whole new definition to the idea of civic responsibility. Capturing the tenacity of the human spirit, the film will likely to seduce its viewers too.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Grand Seduction.
Getting a doctor to commit to setting up practice in a small town can be a big job. Here is the pitch used by medicaljobs.org.
Why is Murray not opposed to lying in order to secure a doctor for the town? Do you feel he is justified in doing so? What bigger consequences do the little fibs have over time? Was there any other way the town might have gone about attracting a physician to their community?
Why is Murray’s wife willing to leave home to get a job? Why are the other residents not willing to do the same? What does her choice of employment say about her work ethic? Are the other locals of Tickle Head content just collecting welfare?