COMEDY/DRAMA LOOKING FOR ERIC (15) 116min on
Could Ken Loach ﬁnally be mellowing in his eighth decade? For years the socialist director has been British cinema’s most consistently political filmmaker, illuminating how the dreams of his working class characters are inevitably thwarted by the economic and social inequalities of modern capitalism. Teaming up with regular collaborators - screenwriter Paul Laverty and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, plus the ex-Manchester United footballer Eric Cantona - Loach seems to now want a hit, and this sentimental, feel good comedy may just be the ticket for commercial success.
Its protagonist, Eric Bishop (Steve Evets), is a middle-aged Mancuanian postman prone to panic attacks. Following two failed marriages, he currently lives with his two teenaged stepsons, who treat him contemptuously. Childcare arrangements for his granddaughter mean that he has to meet Lily (Stephanie Bishop), the woman he ran out on three decades earlier. Gazing up one night over a spliff at a bedroom poster of Cantona, Eric is amazed to see the Frenchman appear.
Cantona proceeds to act as a life coach to the mixed-up Eric, passing on his heavily accented wisdom in the form of maxims, such as, ‘You cannot throw a six if you do not roll the dice.’ The advice is pithy: communicate with those who you love and trust one’s friends, here represented by Eric’s good natured postal colleagues led by Meatballs (John Henshaw). Cantona nominates the finest moment of his career as being a pass to a teammate, rather than one of the spectacular strikes shown in the montages of his goals (a veil is drawn over his lack of success at European and international level - to his fans he remains ‘Ie roi’.)
Shot without frills, the engagingly acted Looking for Eric is much less conspicuously political than Loach’s previous ﬁlms. There’s no mention of the threats to privatise the Royal Mail, and the character of Spleen, who bemoans how ordinary fans have been priced out of attending live Premiership games, is treated comically. And if Loach has never been afraid of blending social realism and melodrama in his work, here the shifts in tone feel awkward. This film is at its most touching when observing how the romantic relationship between Eric and Lily is gradually rekindled, and at its least convincing in its lurch into gun crime territory, while the upbeat finale, in celebrating the role of collective action, is more entertaining than dramatically credible. (Tom Dawson)
I General release from Fri 72 Jun.
ROMANCE/COMEDY GIGANTIC (15) 98min «c
Having done morose to such great comic effect as a mute Goth kid in Little Miss Sunshine and zealous to fine dramatic impact as the phoney preacher in There Will Be Blood. boyishly good looking American actor Paul Dano graduates from supporting player to leading man in this comic drama, which he also executive produced. and which is released in the UK on his 25th birthday. It's a self- consciously quirky US indie. co-written by newcomers Adam Nagata and Matt Aselton, who also directs. and starring Dano as an unassuming New York mattress salesman named Brian Weathersby whose plan to adopt a Chinese baby is complicated by the unforeseen arrival into his quiet life of Zooey Deschanel's kooky and carefree Harriet ‘Happy' Lolly. Brian just wants to settle down and enjoy being a single parent. but his growing fascination with Happy threatens to turn his life upside-down, not least when the flighty girl announces she's leaving America for Europe.
The above events unfold in a series of odd off-kilter scenes involving various eccentric characters — Happy's imperious father Al (John Goodman). Brian's bumbling parents (Ed Asner and Jane Alexander). Brian's Zen-like colleague Roger (The Wire's Clarke Peters) - and the film has the slow burning, meandering pace and plotting that feels familiar from one too many idiosyncratic independent movies. And the book-ending scenes. in which Brian does battle with a violent homeless guy. are wantonly enigmatic and not a little pretentious. But Dano and Deschanel are very watchable. and they're supported by a great veteran cast. (Miles Fielder)
I Selected release from Fri 79 Jun.
THRILLER NEW TOWN KILLERS
(15) 98min .0.
Richard Jobson's Edinburgh-set credit crunch thriller is the best film and
certainly his most commercial since
his impressive 2003 debut 76 Years of
Alcohol. As he did with that film.
Jobson makes inventive use of the city he calls home. shooting in the nooks and crannies between the overly familiar picture postcard views of the Scottish capital. And although the city played an important role in Jobson's semi-autobiographical first film. it‘s
' arguably more integral to the story of
The plot concerns a young lad. named Sean (James Anthony Pearson from Control). from one of Edinburgh's poor housing schemes who reluctantly
' agrees to play a sinister game of tag
with a pair of smartly dressed private bankers, Alistair (Dougray Scott) and Jamie (Alistair Mackenzie). lf Sean can evade his pursuers for 12 hours overnight he'll win $12,000: it he's caught he won't see the morning light.
What follows is a fast-paced game of cat-and-mouse in which the nasty. nihilistic Alistair and his less malevolent sidekick chase the good natured but under-privileged Sean all over both the New and Old Towns of Edinburgh. It's entertaining with some terrific turns from the cast. particularly from Scott who really makes a meal of his enigmatic villain.
Beyond that, New Town Killers provides smart. mordant commentary on the gulf between the rich and poor. all of which makes it very timely indeed. (Miles Fielder)
I Selected release from Fri 72 Jun.
0 THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT
(18) 109min coo
Given the repellent nature of Wes Craven's scuzzy little 1972 rape and revenge shocker, it's a relief to find this glossy remake straying somewhat from the
original's sleazy path.
Craven and original producer Sean 8 Cunningham steer the hand of Dennis Illiadis. director of 2004’s gritty Greek crime flick Hardcore. who introduces surgeon John Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn). wife Emma (Monica Potter) and teenage daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) as they depart for a quiet weekend on a remote lakeside property. But when Mari heads off to score some drugs. she falls foul of a family of homicidal maniacs. led by sociopath Krug (Garret Dillahunt. not half as scary as the original's David A Hess).
As before. there's a painfully drawn out build-up to an extended and extremely nasty rape sequence. In the aftermath, the culprits blithely seek shelter from an oncoming rainstorm with Mari's parents. who turn vengeful when they realise what's happened to their daughter. Openly reworking the plot of Bergman's The Virgin Spring, Craven and Cunningham have softened the hard edges of sexual sadism in favour of silly splatter, with llladis' climactic ‘head in the microwave' showstopper an impressively mounted finale for hardened thrill-seekers.
(Eddie Harrison) I General release from Fri 79 Jun.
1 1—213 Jun 2009 THE LIST 51