The charm of ‘Dr. Lewis’ outweighs the clichés
Ste. Marie-La-Mauderne, the setting of Jean-Francois Pouliot’s “Seducing Dr. Lewis,” is a dead end – a fishing village on its last legs, windswept and chilly, devoid of opportunity. For its 100-or-so residents, virtually all on the downslope of life, the only thing worse than living in Ste. Marie is having to leave there. Yes, Ste. Marie sucks – but not half as bad as having to move away, especially to the dreaded “city,” in this case Montreal, three hours away, to get a job. The banged-up, worn-down residents have been lining up to cash welfare checks, drinking beer and watching hockey at the town’s one pub, and playing the weekly game of bingo long enough to recoil at the thought of any break in the routine. When Germain (Raymond Bouchard), the town’s self-appointed mayor, hints to his friend Yvon (Pierre Collin) that he may have to move to the city so his wife can get work, Yvon stubbornly insists that he will not be visiting: He has never been to the city and he’s never going.
There is, for the Ste. Marie faithful, one last glimmer of hope. A big company has dropped hints that Ste. Marie is among the prospective locations for a new factory that will mean jobs for all and some sense of forward progress for the community. There is a hitch, however. The town has to have a resident doctor. Ste. Marie, alas, doesn’t even have a decent sewing kit; witness the landscape of horrific scars on its people. And the idea of luring even the lowliest quack seems remote.But fate – and the last shred of loyalty of a former Ste. Marie resident – intervene. Young, suave, cocaine-sniffing Dr. Lewis (David Boutin) is pulled over by a city cop whose last job happens to have been mayor of Ste. Marie. A bindle of coke ejects out of Dr. Lewis’ hand; the next thing we know, the good doctor is on a decrepit boat heading for Ste. Marie.Getting the doctor there is one thing; keeping him there will require more than shady police practices. The Ste. Marie community may not have much, but when it comes to landing a factory they prove ingenious, devious and motivated. They tap Dr. Lewis’ phone to figure out what might persuade him to stay in Ste. Marie. Soon enough, there is a makeshift cricket field and the worst cricket games ever witnessed, and the lone local restaurant is learning how to make – and pronounce – beef stroganoff. And the town’s one eligible young lass, the inexplicably hot Lucie (Eve Beauchernin), keeps turning up whenever Dr. Lewis turns his head.
“Seducing Dr. Lewis” is predictable in its portrayal of small-town idiosyncrasies, utterly implausible, and hokey in the schemes the townspeople devise to keep Dr. Lewis on the hook. (Planting money for him to find? Every night? In the same spot?) No matter at all. The film has senses of both humor and warmth that far outweigh any clichés. The cricket scenes are priceless. The characters – especially Bouchard’s optimistic, well-rounded Germain, and the fussy, out-of-place banker Henri (Benoît Bríere) – are convincing.Perhaps the wisest thing director Pouliot devised for “Seducing Dr. Lewis” was the fablelike beginning, one that nostalgically weaves together the history of Ste. Marie, the satisfaction of a hard day’s work, and a good lay. From the outset, the viewer’s sense of reality is suspended, allowing Pouliot to work on a broad, fantastical canvas. He makes the most of it. Just as Dr. Lewis is lured by the pie-in-the-sky concoctions staged by the community of Ste. Marie, viewers will be seduced by the far-fetched – but very real – charms of “Seducing Dr. Lewis.”
“Seducing Dr. Lewis” shows at Paepcke Auditorium Sunday and Monday, Aug. 22-23, as the finale of the SummerFilms series.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Officials are investigating the source of a loud explosion at Smuggler Mine on Saturday morning.