The Grand Seduction

By Nat Master

Mailed on September 18, 2013

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Dear Guy Lalonde
Production Designer

Dear Guy,

With a couple of hours to kill at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, I drifted past a long line of people outside a theatre.

"What are you here to see?" I asked.
"Newfoundlanders pretending to play cricket" came the answer.

I joined the line immediately.

Turns out, I'm just like Dr. Lewis in Don McKellar's remake of the 2003 Quebec film, La Grande Seduction. I've got a soft spot for bowlers and batsmen. And now I'm thinking it's actually possible you planted these people in line. They seemed like real festival-goers - grasping their orange tickets, impatiently checking their watches and buzzing with anticipation - but you certainly have a wonderful handle on creating believable fictions.

Your version of the The Grand Seduction takes place in the made-up harbour of Tickle Head, Newfoundland. With the town's aging population almost entirely destitute, Murray French (Brendan Gleeson) and his friend, Simon (Gordon Pinsent), hatch a plot to have a waste processing plant built in town. The deal requires Tickle Head to have a full-time doctor in residence. When Dr. Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch) arrives for a month-long trial posting, Murray and Simon drag the entire community into an elaborate ruse to convince him to stay, resulting in hilarious crash courses in cricket, Indian cuisine and jazz-fusion.

But of course, I was the one who ended up being seduced. Mostly by stunning New Bonaventure, located in Newfoundland's Trinity Bay area. The sets, such as the local bar/restaurant Joe's Place, built from scratch for the film, paint a picture of a tiny harbour in a state of significant disrepair and neglect, coupled neatly with the lethargy and despair of its residents. Yet the contrast between the shabbiness of the town and its breathtaking surroundings actually serves to establish the resilience of those who live there. The houses may be shabby and in need of the odd coat of paint, but they are also warm with the care and pride their inhabitants take in filling them with the things, that root you to the place you call your own and reassure you that you are home.

But enough about your stellar production design (again, well done). We need to talk about the cricket. That's what I signed up for.

As the daughter of a cricket enthusiast, watching Murray and co. attempt to stage a match for Dr. Lewis is something I won't soon forget. I can fully relate to the sheer confusion that comes from trying to figure cricket out. To their credit, the boys nearly had it. Somewhat. Okay, not at all, really. What Tickle Cove needed more than a doctor was a cricket coach. Someone to explain the bunsen, mollygrubber, and silly-nanny, and to teach them that an oar is a poor substitute for a cricket bat. I mean come on, it felt like they were being taught by a production designer.



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