Local Hero

1983, Movie, PG, 111 mins


Charming, whimsical, and practically perfect, LOCAL HERO reminds us of the great pleasures that British comedy used to routinely provide. This is the greatest Ealing comedy never made: a quirky character comedy with a skillful use of location that is sweetly reminiscent of WHISKEY GALORE!. A discerning eye may even spot a wee bit of the magical Powell-Pressburger ethos as expressed in I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING. However the offbeat sensibility on display here is ultimately distinctively that of Scottish filmmaker Bill Forsyth (GREGORY'S GIRL, THAT SINKING FEELING, COMFORT AND JOY, HOUSEKEEPING).

Burt Lancaster gets star billing as the loony head of a huge oil company in Texas, a tycoon so ambivalent about his success that he has a psychiatrist (Norman Chancer) come in regularly and insult him. Bored with business success, astronomy has become his great passion. The true protagonist of the film is Mac (Peter Riegert), an ambitious young executive of the oil company, who is dispatched to Scotland to buy an entire town so the company can drill for North Sea oil. An important side mission is to keep watching the sky for anything interesting. The utterly charming remote little coastal town is largely controlled by Urquhart (Dennis Lawson), a sharp but good-natured lawyer-innkeeper. Victor (Christopher Rozycki), a Soviet trawler captain, makes regular stops at the village, where Urquhart conducts sundry investments for him in real estate and securities. The obvious plot turn would be to show the Americans as nasty and rapacious, but it turns out that the Scots would be only too happy to depart the area if the price were right. Throughout the film, nothing is quite what it seems to Mac, and the denouement is wonderfully unexpected.

The Scottish landscape is gorgeous, soothing, and handsomely shot. The casting, down to the smallest role, is just right. Lancaster gives one of his best performances in a parody of the role he's played straight so many times before--the blustering industrial mogul. Scottish writer-director Bill Forsyth has outdone himself with this funny, touching, and original film. Don't miss this magical treat. (Incidentally this film served as a MAJOR source of inspiration for the hit CBS television series, "Northern Exposure.") leave a comment

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