The French-Canadian farce Seducing Doctor Lewis puts an interesting spin on the tired genre of the romantic comedy: it tells the love story of a man and a town. As usual, the romantic comedy needs conflict (usually stirred by lies), so here the town collectively becomes the prevaricator to woo its love object: a young doctor. That the aloof exception to the town's fervent advances is the beautiful female object of the young doctor's affection adds to the irony of this sporadically amusing situation comedy.
The small northern Quebec island of Ste. Marie-La Mauderne has a proud heritage of fishing and randy good cheer, but of late the townspeople look like empty vessels. Their fishing industry dried up, the men trudge shamefacedly back and forth from collecting their monthly welfare checks to drab homes and dreary marriages. Their bid to attract a factory to town hinges on a requirement they don't meet: a resident doctor. One man, Germain (Raymond Bouchard), gets it in his head to go after one more big catch, so when circumstance hooks him a candidate, Germain sets to reeling him into a provincial life.
Ken Scott's screenplay introduces Dr. Christopher Lewis (David Boutin) as a world-class jerk, though the snarky, coke-snorting plastic surgeon from Montreal turns innocent before he even docks at Ste. Marie-La Mauderne. Other character deficiencies arise, but Seducing Dr. Lewis is more concerned with plot, in particular the great lengths of deception to which the townspeople go: pretending to be cricket enthusiasts (their bats fashioned from sawed-off oars), tapping the doctor's phone, making him jealous with fake competition for the local medical practice, and scrambling to make the town population seem larger to the factory investors.
Comparisons between Seducing Doctor Lewis and TV's Northern Exposure or even the big-screen comedy Doc Hollywood—both about city-slicker doctors obliged to relocate to a small town—are fair enough, since the lightly foolish, naive provincials (and surplus of village idiots) look awfully familiar: the awkward, portly bank manager in bow-tie, V-neck sweater, and sport coat; the bumbling, indistinguishable roosters (at the bar) and hens (at the switchboard) who barely keep the big secret; and the exception who proves the rule: the smart, sassy woman playing hard-to-get.
Though tired, Jean-François Pouliot's film manages some heartfelt moments along the way, in the exploitative confusion of Germain playing father figure to the doctor or the hollow victories felt by townspeople triumphing in Lewis's broken spirit. Seducing Dr. Lewis is an engaging-enough trifle in the underdog mode, played for the reassuring fantasy of a foregone happy ending of pride (and passion) regained.