I’ve been a bit worried about myself lately. I’m not generally easy to please…but I’ve been frothing ecstatic over virtually every movie I see. Could I be on some sort of manic-depressive upswing, I wondered. Worse – could I be going soft? Fark!
Incriminating evidence is right here in this very blog: see my reviews of Balibo, $9.99 and Anvil! – The Story Of Anvil. Then there was the haunting Samson and Delilah, which I saw too late to bother about reviewing – and just as well, for I would have grappled to pin that one down. I probably would have babbled on about a rare poetic quality that set it apart from anything else I’ve seen…a new cinematic dialect. And that would have been unfortunate, because I know I’d be put off a film that inspired that sorta rave in those sortsa terms (not to mention the reviewer).
Well, me of little faith. I should have known it wouldn’t last…and it didn’t. No sir. Shit detector fully functioning, I’m pleased to report. And bugger me, did Ken Loach give it a good workout at the Luna on Thursday night, with his new ‘comedy’ Looking For Eric.
I have to say, I’ve never been a fan of politically-driven stuff like Loach’s. I don’t go for that ‘social realist’ style of movie-making that directors like he and fellow misery-guts Mike Leigh specialise in. Why does championing the oppressed pommy working class have to be so fucking dreary? And longwinded? And why do they all have to be sorta grubby looking, unshaven and toss-haired, and look like they’d stink? Not to mention eternally grumpy and glum and living in self-imposed squalor and clutter? Know wha’ I mean, guv?
Seems I could be missing something with Looking For Eric, though – I suppose I should point that out. See, the UK Telegraph critic declared it Loach’s “sunniest film to date.” Can’t say I was blinded by the light. You’ll get more UV exposure outta the fridge light than you will from Looking For Eric.
There are times I feel more like an alien than others, and watching this movie last Thursday was one of them.
The film opens with a car crash. Some turkey a few rows back guffawed. It’s a comedy, right? Hohoho – get ready to laugh, then.
Naturally, my contempt expressed itself in a sneer that, I fancy, might have alerted those on either side of the possible presence of a werewolf, had they chanced to glance sideways in the flickering dark.
Thing is, the rest of the crowd joined in the chortling as the movie progressed, while nothing changed for me. It’s a lonely feeling, sitting irrelevantly in the dark scowling to yourself while all around are having a jolly time.
Look, I just don’t connect with pommy soccer culture and the blokey shit that goes along with it, and that’s what Loach idealises in this movie. The lads down the local are Community, providing counsel and succour for troubled Eric in an emotionally repressed beer-n-aley sorta way. Never mind the shrink, old son. There’s nothing that a few too many pints, a good larf and singalong wiv the crew, and a Man United victory won’t fix. That seems to be Loach’s basic thesis here.
And I mean basic. That’s my main issue with this film. It’s psychologically simplistic.
eg 1: Eric carries a torch for Lily, whom he hasn’t seen for 30 years, having run out on her when she was but a slip of a girl, pregnant with their daughter. He has a close relationship with this daughter, who is a single mother about to graduate from uni – how he’s managed to avoid her mother for three decades beats me. You gotta mark that down as a plot flaw. He eventually explains that he deserted Lily because he was frightened, then “just couldn’t get back.” You reckon that’s simplistic? Well, you aint seen nothin’ yet. Read on…
eg 2: Eric’s being stood over by a violent local crim and his thug minders, and the pub lads get together to brainstorm (a far-fetched concept with these gaffers) a way out. One of the lads turns up late, waving a book on psychopaths borrowed from the library (I kid you not), declaring that humiliation is the strategy they need to adopt. I won’t spill the beans on the solution they come up with, but it’s farcical and for me, amounted to profoundly unfunny slapstick. The rest of the theatre didn’t agree, going by the riotous hyuk-hyuking and thigh-slapping that greeted this segment.
It didn’t help, either, that I couldn’t decipher a lot of the dialogue. Part of the problem was the Mancunian accent. Worse, was the heavy French accent of Eric Cantona (those who follow soccer – yawn – will know all about his on-field exploits for Manchester United). It’s worth mentioning, actually, that Cantona co-wrote the movie, casting himself as himself. I’m not sure why. He appears to Eric in his many times of need, spouting forth words of wisdom and philosophy – when you can understand what the hell he’s saying. At times, he switches to French, unsubtitled. WTF?
If you’re a pommy soccer bonehead who lives for yer team and yer mates at the local, and especially if you come from “up North” and hate Tories, toffs etc, you’ll probably love Looking For Eric. Ditto if you’re an ideologue of Loach’s persuasion. Or if you’re a fan of his brand of “social realism.” Or if you laugh easily at comedies just because they’re comedies.
But if you expect your characters to act out of plausible motivation, if you want their psychology fleshed out, if you shy away from ideologically-driven drama, if you do not erupt in mirth easily, or if you’re an alien, like me, you’ll probably share my assessment of this flick as shite.
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