A quiet, moody perfectionist with a look as if he's gone as far as he can but it's not far enough, Dave Purcell (Hurt) opens a fine restaurant, The Auk, on a rocky coast in Newfoundland, far from where diners are apt to happen upon his splendid food. Business is lousy, and he's going broke while battling to get a handle on drugs and alcohol, to which he's now addicted.
His best friend, "Phonse" (Jones) (a.k.a. Alphonse), is an optimistic schemer who decides to help. He reports sighting a rare duck, hoping the area will become swamped with bird-watchers who will want to eat at The Auk. Their fraud is so good that Dave can't go on running The Auk alone, and hires a waitress, Alice (Molly Parker), with whom he soon falls mutually in love.
Adapted by Riche from his own novel, this is a sweet story, and both whimsical and touching, something between a slice of life and a screwball comedy. Hurt's Dave is a tender, inward, unsocial man who enjoys running his restaurant in near-total isolation. Now his life is complicated, not only by all the new business and Alice, but because Phonse finds of a huge batch of cocaine floating in the bay. Can they sell it? Can Dave resist it?
Dour men, obviously not bird men, skulk about. Dave ignores them, but Phonse can't. Obsessed with marketing a "recreational submarine," he thinks maybe they're industrial spies, or maybe narcs. The plot is too much by the film's end; it should have less action and more whimsy, but Hurt remains true to his character, and the film weaves a screwball spell.
Scheduled to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 11, 2001, the film's fate was forever changed because the public didn't see it; only a few critics got to a makeup screening in a 20-seat theater. It got only limited theatrical release but is available on tape and DVD, but is best seen in a theater. The Auk's unlikely location is offset by its magnificent view.
Edward Riche, based on his novel
William Hurt, Molly Parker, and Andy Jones
False report of endangered ducks; restaurant in Newfoundland
English Reviewer's Name:
When using above purchase link, type the movie name in Search Box that will appear, and select DVD or VHS.