Eric D. Snider

Seducing Dr. Lewis (French)

In "Seducing Dr. Lewis," probably at least the one-millionth film ever made about quirky small-town folks, a bunch of quirky small-town folks must convince the titular physician to take up residence there. This is done primarily by deceit, which of course is eventually revealed, which of course makes Dr. Lewis feel betrayed. The film therefore follows the same basic trajectory as a romantic comedy, except instead of being about a man and a woman, it is about a man and a town.

It's a charming movie, written by Ken Scott and directed by Jean-Francois Pouliot, both French-Canadians who are barely known in the U.S. It's set in a small, economically depressed fishing village called St. Marie-La-Mauderne, a town that once thrived but that has now seen all of its residents either move to Montreal or stay put and go on welfare.

There's talk of a factory being built in the town, which would give it the boost it needs. Problem is, the corporation's insurance company won't let it build there unless the town has a local doctor. Which it doesn't. So Germain Lesage (Raymond Bouchard), about 50 years old and one of the town's many garrulous, scruffy heavy drinkers, recruits his grizzly best friend Yvon (Pierre Collin) and nerdy town banker Henri (Benoit Briere) to implement a plan. They send letters to every doctor in Quebec, touting the charms of St. Marie-La-Mauderne and pleading with them to relocate.

No one bites, of course; you can't make $100,000 a year in a remote fishing village. But as luck would have it, a former St. Marie resident, now a police officer in Montreal, pulls over a doctor who has cocaine in his possession. A deal is cut: Go to jail, or go to St. Marie for 30 days.

He is Dr. Christopher Lewis (David Boutin), a handsome, vaguely scoundrelly plastic surgeon whose reaction to this benighted village is somewhere between bemusement and horror. The town, meanwhile, led by Germain, knows it has only a month to make Lewis fall in love with the place and decide to stay. They pretend to love cricket (his favorite sport) and tap his phone so they can learn more about him and thus how to woo him. He mentions his girlfriend's feet, and the next day all the women in St. Marie are wearing open-toed shoes.

The film has a wistful, summer-evening feel to it, as Germain remembers the good ol' days of the town's prosperity and does everything he can to regain it. The locals are likably odd, as is customary for films like this, and the whole thing is pleasantly funny, even sweet at times. Most impressive is the fact that the town has exactly one pretty young female -- and yet her falling in love with Dr. Lewis is NOT a foregone conclusion. That's a nice touch in a movie that could have been (and in some ways is) entirely predictable.

Grade: B

Not rated, probably PG-13 for some strong sexuality (heard, but not seen), and a few mild profanities

1 hr., 48 min.; French with subtitles

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