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Seducing Dr. Lewis

HOOK, LINE AND SINKER

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In St.-Marie-de-Mauderne, an island village of just 120 people somewhere in watery upper Canada, the fish have long ago gone out to sea, taking the town's economy with them.

 

In the good old days, the men would begin work at dawn, come home in the evening to a hearty fish dinner, and then crawl into bed with their wives. The sounds of their collective lovemaking filled the town's otherwise tranquil night sky. But now everyone's on welfare, and that won't change unless they can lure a small plastics factory to town to offer jobs to its frustrated (in a number of ways) citizens. There's just one catch: The company insists that the town have a full-time doctor, and the nearest one is three hours away.

 

This is the setup for Seducing Dr. Lewis, a charmingly benign little French-language comedy from Canada that emulates the blithe style of some popular recent British small-town comedies, like Brassed Off and The Full Monty. Directed by Jean-François Pouliot, and performed by a droll cast that keeps the story's silliness well in check, it's the perfect mid-summer middle-aged movie (the subtitles translate "ass" as "bum") if you've exceeded your quota of thrills and explosions.

 

To lure a doctor to their nowhere town, St.-Marie's cagey-cum-doltish residents stumble onto a stroke of luck: A handsome young Montréal plastic surgeon gets busted with cocaine in his car by St.-Marie's former mayor, who's now a cop in the big city. So Dr. Lewis agrees to spend a month in St.-Marie, unaware that the locals have concocted a plot to hook him into wanting to stay longer.

 

Dr. Lewis likes cricket, so the men in town pretend to know how to play it. He craves beef stroganoff, which nobody has heard of ("beef bugger off," a child calls it), so the local restaurant launches a festival to celebrate the dish. They think he has a foot fetish (they've bugged his telephone), so the women all begin to walk around barefoot or in sandals. He's a pathetic fisherman, so someone slips into scuba gear and puts a frozen fish on his line (must have come from the icy bottom of the sea, his fishing partner tells him).

 

And so on, right up to an ending so heartwarming that your left ventricle might just boil over. There are lessons here (of course) about living a simpler life and being true to yourself, and about the road to happiness being paved with pluck, pride and a few whoppers. The pace is lively but never fast, the humor mostly smile-inducing but occasionally outright funny. And somewhat like the much more substantial Barbarian Invasions, it takes a few jabs at socialized medicine, which seems to be a favorite whipping boy of Canadian cinema. In French, with subtitles. 3 cameras

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