Mark Reviews Movies

LOOKING FOR ERIC

2  Stars (out of 4)

Director: Ken Loach

Cast: Steve Evets, Eric Cantona, Stephanie Bishop, Gerard Kearns, Stefan Gumbs, Lucy-Jo Hudson, John Henshaw, Steve Marsh

MPAA Rating: NR

Running Time: 1:56

Release Date: 5/14/10 (limited); 6/11/10 (wider)


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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 14, 2010

Another tale of a man stuck in a rut, undergoing a midlife crisis, Looking for Eric builds a sympathetic perspective for its likeable loser of a protagonist. The term loser is meant in the most positive way possible.

Here is a man out of his element in almost every aspect of his life. He is a single dad. He hasn't spoken to his first wife, whom he left, in years. His second wife left him with two sons to raise on his own.

He lives in a house with the boys, who regularly have loud, teenage company over, talk to him with thinly veiled disdain, and laugh off his occasional outbursts of trying to enforce a sense of order.

When we first meet Eric Bishop (Steve Evets), he is trying to kill himself, recklessly driving his car on the wrong side of the road (There is something to be garnered from his choice of this method of suicide, which, in its inherent danger to others, shows a sort of selfishness, or at least a lack of consciousness to the effect his actions have on others).

As this is our first introduction to the man, his co-worker friends' reaction is the only way of understanding Eric before the event. They are shocked, uncertain of from where this has come. They discuss the lack of a woman in his life. He must be quiet, reserved, unlikely to talk about his problems to anyone. They care, and that says something about Eric's personality than anything else.

So the friends all gather together, plan to tell him random jokes on the floor of the postal office where they all work (He must suspect something in the frequency of their appearance) while his most vocal supporter, named (for unknown reasons) Meatballs (John Henshaw) buys a self-help book to bring Eric back from his funk. Pretend to see yourself as a personal hero whose confidence you respect, the book says. One friend selects Nelson Mandela; another chooses Frank Sinatra.

Eric picks Eric Cantona, the famous Manchester United soccer star, who appears to him in fantasies induced by the pot he steals from under the floorboards in his son Ryan's (Gerard Kearns) room. Cantona speaks in riddles about seagulls, advises him on trying to win back his first wife Lily (Stephanie Bishop), and gives him workout tips.

Eric's life has become concentrated on memories and wishes, and Cantona is the outlet to whom to express them. He recalls the first time he and Lily met, at a dance contest where they shared some unspeakable bond. He remembers how they would spend long nights just staring into each other's eyes. There's a trunk full of mementos in his room, locked, apparently for decades, and he opens it to rediscover the postcard she sent him after he left. She loved him then, and his greatest fear now is that she simply doesn't care.

She has every right not to, and Paul Laverty's screenplay doesn't assign blame any further than it needs to. Eric knows and admits he was wrong, and he tells Lily that after finally working up the courage to talk with her. He tries to explain the pressure he felt, an indescribable feeling of overwhelming dread of failure and the need to run away from it, not her. She understands; enough time has passed for the wounds to heal. He describes a panic attack, and she recognizes his fear.

The Cantona gimmick is just that. Laverty uses it as a springboard to Eric's awakening and recalls it as necessary. The results are inconsistent, but the scenes between Eric and Lily in the past and present that arise from this new awareness and sense of responsibility are the honest effects.

The movie creates a sense of community among friends, a mature recognition of the difficulties in Eric and Lily's reunion, and the Eric's personality shift.

Then things go awry. Enter the local thug (Steve Marsh), a sociopathic menace who pins Ryan with association in a shooting by having the kid hide the gun in the house. He is the member of another, completely different movie, yet here he is, sidetracking the entire endeavor. Suddenly, Eric and his family are threatened, humiliated, and hounded by the police.

Eric's sense of self-worth and redemption no longer rely on his ability to interact with his family but in his determination to outwit and defeat the town bully (The whole movie, then, has a sort of middle-school mentality of conflict: Idolize sports icon, stop being a wimp, and try to win the girl, with a victory over the bully being the mean to those ends).

Lily disappears from view until this errand is complete, and even Cantona turns from ridiculous sage to the mask of vengeance. It's a conventional and entirely dishonest turn of events that undermine everything that has come before in Looking for Eric.

Copyright 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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