Saturday, June 5, 2010

Looking For Eric

"Looking For Eric" is a film among the ranks of "Adoration" as one of the worst Cannes competition entries I've ever seen. It's a film of a questionable tone, marketed as a comedy, but as markgorman of IMDb states, it "is not a Ken Loach comedy." Oh, and that's just another thing: Loach has apparently made two of the worst films of his career back-to-back with this and "Route Irish" (which I have yet to see). I wonder if it will affect people's perception of his body of work.

Steve Evets (who has a palindrome name) is probably the right person to play someone like Eric Bishop based on appearance (as the character describes himself as "scrawny" and Evets fits the bill) and on basic personality (pessimistic). But somehow he gets extremely annoying very fast, be it his downbeat nature or perhaps the fact that he desperately needs his mouth washed out with soap (as it has been noted, he drops about as many f-bombs as possible without sounding like a Joe Pesci character; perhaps it's not a coincidence that the Loach film "Sweet Sixteen" is 9th on the list of films with the most of this word). If you're like me, having your patience worn thin before the hour mark, you can see why he's been divorced two times. He's like your veritable Moses Herzog (who had the same number of divorces).

This film follows this character for 116 minutes, which a friend correctly notes as "too long." He's happy only in two instances: 1) when, as said before, he's watching Manchester United with his friends (who are nicknamed things like Meatballs), and 2) when he's thinking about the "best night of his life," which was a dance at a gathering with his first ex-wife when they were really young. Otherwise he's trying with no success to be a father to teenage sons who make a mess.

The main portion of the film (or what the title refers to) is his relationship with Eric Cantona, who I believe is a retired Manchester United star who Eric Bishop considers the "best soccer player that ever lived" and selects him as "the person who's confidence he wishes to emulate" when led in a group exercise (the group exercise scene is pretty much pointless, although it has some of the film's only humor). Cantona's career is rehashed in far too many clips of archival soccer footage as he makes goal after goal (and in one case, a pass). Cantona apparently appears in an imaginary state, although in one instance he can turn on a stereo just by pointing to it. Surprisingly, these are the worst scenes in the film. Ebert complained about not being able to hear what Evets said and saying Cantona was more clear, but that's exactly the opposite for me. It was hard to decipher whether or not Cantona was speaking in English or French at times.

Anyways, these scenes are terrible, taking place in Eric's room, which makes them incredibly easy for Paul Laverty to have written. We learn most of the backstory through them, a technique which I'm terribly against and seems to me as just an easy way out of introducing the information in a believable way. Truth-Telling Stories are worse, but these are bad.

What does happen, but not to the extent that it usually does, is that Eric gets his groove back (figuratively and literally). He talks to his 1st wife Lily (Stephanie Bishop, which is sort of an odd coincidence), although he barely mentions his 2nd wife. Lily is now a do-gooder as a result of the relationship, whereas Eric is a complete ne'er-do-well who won't relinquish the past.

What perhaps prevents him from reaching the confidence level of Joel Osteen is that his sons start getting involved with some sort of kingpin named Zac (Steve Marsh) who takes them periodically to Man U. games. That explains a gun being hidden under the floorboards, which one of his sons says he is doing for Zac's sake. Eric goes to confront Zac, where he gets beaten up and is filmed and put on Youtube. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the site is for. What good would putting a video of a nobody like Eric getting roughed up online do? (The video though appears to be compressed in a ghostly software program, though.) There's no stakes involved, as opposed to what Eric decides to do at the end of the film, which is embarrassing, idiotic, stupidly done, and explains something the audience has fully grasped. This whole subplot basically screws up the film's tone and only serves the purpose of accelerating the film to a longer run time.

"Looking For Eric" might not be completely horrible, but it fails to engross in large portions. I checked my watch at a little under an hour in, and I was shocked by how little of the film had actually gone on. This is the type of film that proves a film cannot be judged good just on the fact that it played In Competition at the Cannes festival or just on the fact that the company IFC is the distributor. If you happen upon this film, deservedly dwindled into limited release, I wonder if you'll have as unpleasant of a viewing experience as I did. D+


Adelaide Dupont said...

I still would like to see it as a DVD.

Archival footage: it can be good, but be careful with the usage of it.

Also the whole "for Zac's sake gun plot".

Stephanie said...

I've never heard of this movie, and I'm laughing out loud of parts of your description of it. When a character "gets annoying really fast," it does not bode well for the rest of the movie. :-)

I watched Sweet Sixteen, but I'd forgotten about all the "f-bombs" in it. For some reason, curse words sound milder to me when spoken with British accents. :-D