Seducing Dr. Lewis

directed by Jean-Francois Pouliot

written by Ken Scott

starring Raymond Bouchard, David Boutin and Benoit Briere

review by Stephen Notley

The opening scene of Seducing Dr. Lewis (La Grande Seduction in the original French) is quite magical, as our hero Germain revisits childhood memories of life in his tiny fishing village, the fishermen going out with their lanterns into the pitch-black morning, chugging out into the bay one by one, then returning after the day's hard and honest work to bed their wives, soft cries echoing across the rooftops followed by sweet synchronized exhalations of post-coital smokes from the chimneys. It's a lovely little sequence, misty and lightly fantastical, reminding one of Amelie in its dreamlike Frenchness.

Nothing else in Seducing Dr. Lewis is as special as its opening, sadly, but it's still a pleasing little film, one of those little-town-gets-together-to-commit-benign-fraud stories like Waking Ned Devine. In Seducing Dr. Lewis we find the sleepy hamlet of St. Marie-le-Mauderne, long past its idyllic time of plenty and now stuck in the grinding humiliation of the monthly dole, the whole town lining up one by one at the post office to collect their cheques. The town does have a long shot; there's a plastic-container company thinking of setting up a factory, but they insist that the town have a resident doctor. But how do you attract a doctor to a tiny little hamlet like St. Marie-le-Mauderne? Luckily a coke-related plot contrivance sends the eponymous Dr. Christopher Lewis their way for a month so Germain and his buddies rouse the town to put on the best, most flagrantly illusory face possible.

And so they do in nice low-intensity style. They discover he likes cricket, so they fumble out a cricket pitch and pretend to play and understand a game of cricket for his edification as he floats by on a boat. They tap his phone and discover he loves stroganoff, so suddenly the special at the town diner is stroganoff. They take him fishing but he's terrible, so they cover up his terrible technique by scuba-diving to attach a fish to his incompetent line.

And so on. It's warm and homey, though perhaps lacking in dramatic intensity or super memorable characters. Grizzled Raymond Bouchard as Germain is as warm and friendly small-town as the warm and friendly small town he's pimping, and a couple of his buddies generate the occasional smile, but nobody really leaps off the screen. For a coke-sniffing hotshot Montreal plastic surgeon, Dr. Lewis is an incredibly easy sell on the pleasures of St. Marie-le-Mauderne, easily charmed by the townspeople's soft deceptions, immediately taking an compassionate doctorly interest in their various scabs and rashes. He never seems to yearn to return to Montreal so it never seems that tough to convince him to stay.

Curiously, the one thing the movie doesn't do is gear up much of a romantic plot, odd considering the usual way to get characters to stay in small towns is by having them fall in love with beautiful small town gals. There is one on hand in St. Marie-le-Mauderne, Eve, played by Lucie Laurier; if you've seen the poster for Seducing Dr. Lewis she's the one glancing winsomely back at you from the crowd. But rather than pimping her out to Dr. Lewis the story holds back, deploying her more as a vision or figurehead for the town as she quietly reads on a dock, the sea breezes tugging at the flowing fabrics of her gown, the one lingering touch of the magic that suffused the opening scene.

Seducing Dr. Lewis is a lightly flavored little film, a mild but well-achieved pleasure; it's just too bad the whole film couldn't sustain the lyrical wonder of that first scene. Assuming you've seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Hellboy three times already, you might wanna check it out.

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