Cast: Peter Riegert, Denis Lawson, Fulton MacKay, Burt Lancaster
Director and Screenwriter: Bill Forsyth
Theatrical release: 1983; available on DVD
How is it possible to combine the business of oil-and-gas drilling — and the land-grab deal-making it often includes — with the exploration of character at the heart of a small Scottish fishing village and the fanciful tale of a mermaid? Just ask Bill Forsyth or watch the delightful Local Hero.
This wonderful film is a hilarious mix of paradox, fairy tale, and true-to-life situations that feel as spot-on in the early 21st century as they were twenty-some years earlier when the film was produced. Character is the film's heart, but such "study" is certainly far from heavy-duty.
Burt Lancaster creates a wacky oil company executive as much intrigued by astronomy and the phenomena of meteor showers or Northern Lights as oil-shale geology. Peter Riegert, the oil company's high-powered negotiator, gets a hilarious run for his money from the Scottish locals whose entire village he's come to buy. Some folks see his offer as dollars in their pocket; some don't. But in the process of learning the local negotiating customs, our "hero" is both taken for a ride and converted to a "local" who'd rather trade his Houston condo and Porsche to the crafty saloon-owner-cum-town-mayor-and-chief-dealmaker than go through with the buy-out.
As for the mermaid, you'll just have to watch the film to see where she fits in. By the time she emerges from the sea, it all makes perfect sense and you're more than willing to go along for the ride.
Local Hero is quirky, charming, and touching. Oh, yes... the music by Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits fame) is fittingly appropriate and fantastic!