Looking for Eric
Please do not bother to look for “Looking for Eric.” The film, from British director Ken Loach, is a contrived, self-serving drama about an English football (soccer to us) fan’s attempt at redemption via an apparition of famed soccer player Eric Cantona. Cantona plays himself and also contributed the story idea.
The main character is also named Eric. Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) is a down and out, Brillo-pad-haired, soccer fan who works in the post office. Eric is in his fifties, divorced at least twice and lives with his two step-sons in a ramshackle rooming house. When we first meet Eric he is recklessly driving his car against traffic, eventually destroying his car and putting him in the hospital, with apparently no legal repercussions.
While smoking pot one day, after his hospital release, Eric is visited by the Cantona’s apparition. At various points in the film Eric pours out his heart to Cantona, in a blatantly expositional manner, about what a mess his life has become. The eponymous mentor encourages Eric to get in shape and clean up his act. Soon Eric is exercising and cleaning up his life and trying to improve the lives of his “ne’er-do-well” step-sons. He also wants to get back with his first ex-wife who he treated in an amazingly awful manner. He treated her so badly, as the exposition heavy dialogue reveals, it is a wonder that she even speaks to him.
Coming from a director like Ken Loach, known for his naturalistic style, this rather pat, contrived story feels especially puzzling. Story-wise what could have been an interesting tale of Eric’s redemption gives way to a less than convincing second act crises involving a local gangster, one of Eric’s step-sons, a gun and, of all things, “youtube.” Not only does this feel as if the screenwriters were not sure what to do but the ultimate resolution to all of this, not to be given away, is silly. The reslolution does not show how any of this makes Eric a better human being, although somehow he seems to have become one.
Another part of the problem with “Looking for Eric” is its inherent cultural divide for an American audience. Between the film’s uniquely British references, slang, accents and colloquialisms I’m sure many nuances were lost. Although one can certainly follow the story the way it is, a certain flavor might be there for English sports fans that went by me.
I had no idea who Cantona was until I saw this movie. I did not know if he was real or fictional. As a result seeing Cantona on screen did not get my attention the way it would for an British audience. Fortunately I saw the movie with a friend who knows infinitely more about soccer than I do and was able to provide some background. In American terms this story, for example, might run as follows: Derek Jeter appears before a pot smoking loser named Derek and gives him life advice. Did somebody say “Groan inducing American remake?”
“Looking for Eric,” director Ken Loach, 2010,
IFC Films, 117 minutes