Pick Of The Flicks Blog

French Animated Feature ‘Chicken for Linda,’ from GKIDS, Heads to Digital Retailers on July 2 0

French Animated Feature ‘Chicken for Linda,’ from GKIDS, Heads to Digital Retailers on July 2

Shout! Studios on July 2 will release the French animated feature Chicken for Linda, from GKIDS, for rental or purchase on all major digital platforms. The film will be released … Continue reading “French Animated Feature ‘Chicken for Linda,’ from GKIDS, Heads to Digital Retailers on July 2”

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Eric 0

Eric

It takes either a staggering lead performance or a great plot twist to truly prove that there’s something special to a new miniseries. Netflix’s “Eric” is thankfully one that has both of these aspects tethered to it, for better and sometimes for worse. The series begins with Vincent Anderson (Benedict Cumberbatch), a mad genius-like puppeteer, filming an episode of his hit “Sesame Street”-esque show. On the sidelines, his son Edgar (Ivan Howe) watches with rapt attention, even though he’s seen the show being filmed a million times. 

At first glance, it appears that father and son are close, but as they walk home after the show is filmed, it’s clear they are anything but. Despite connecting due to their love for the arts, Vincent doesn’t seem particularly interested in having a relationship with his son. He cuts him off when he speaks, and while Edgar’s mother, Cassie (Gaby Hoffmann), showers their child with forehead kisses, Vincent seems incapable of treating him with anything other than contempt. He’s despondent with not only his child but his wife, and they both know it. It’s clear they both harbor resentment towards him and that all comes to a head one morning when Edgar leaves for school alone instead of waiting for his father. 

That night, Edgar is reported missing, a catalyst that will change more than just the lives of the Anderson family. With his son missing, Vincent descends into a self-sabotaging fit of alcoholism and substance abuse that gives way to hallucinations of a 7-foot-tall talking puppet. This isn’t just any puppet, though; it’s the titular “Eric,” whom Edgar had created to not only save his father’s show from its low ratings but to connect with Vincent in the only way he knew how to. The puppet begins to haunt Vincent like his son’s memory, forcing him to reconcile with his misdeeds as a father, husband, and human being. Vincent’s journey to find his son also becomes a journey to heal from his childhood trauma, which has only been amplified by the city he lives in. 

In “Eric,” New York is a city crumbling under the weight of the people who are supposed to protect it. From crooked cops to politicians unfit for the job, Edgar’s disappearance gives way to the coverup of other disappearances and even murders. As the story gets more bloated, the main characters slide back into the shadows, and supporting characters take their place. It’s a welcome change, as Vincent’s descent into madness becomes more middling to watch as the show moves along.

When one character disappears, another takes their place equally as fast. Many of them are revealed to be not only just as important as Vincent and Edgar, but perhaps even more. When it comes to the series’ themes of government and corruption, the side characters come to represent these ideas more than the main characters do. It makes these characters all the more interesting, which is great but hinders finding the main characters compelling. Frankly, there are more interesting characters in “Eric” than Vincent and his family, and while the show seems to understand this at times, it struggles with it as well. 

As the show progresses, Vincent takes a back seat to Michael Ledroit (McKinley Belcher III), the lead detective in Edgar’s missing person case, who slowly becomes the show’s leading man. His obsession with finding Edgar stems from a previous missing person case that went unsolved, leading Michael down some of the most exciting paths the show has to offer. His obsession with a seedy club called Luxe pulls him into darker corners, and it becomes clear that it’s not just the club but its owner, Ali Gator (Wade Allain-Marcus), that he’s genuinely interested in. One night, when Michael goes home after working on Edgar’s case, we glimpse his inner life. There on his bed lies William (Mark Gillis), a slightly older and sickly man, who Michael eventually embraces. Here, Michael’s life begins to unfold before the audience and quickly becomes the most enthralling aspect of the show.

Each time McKinley Belcher III is on screen, sauntering through each scene with a confident swagger warranted of an old Hollywood star, it’s impossible to take your eyes off him. He expertly balances the roughness of Michael’s outer persona with the tenderness he shows to his partner, William. His position as a Black gay cop during the AIDS crisis is, frankly, the most fascinating aspect the show has to offer. He struggles with finding a balance between these two aspects of his life, and Belcher III’s resolve within that plot arc makes him the standout.

It feels as if the creators also realized that Michael’s eyes are a far more interesting point of view to view this story through, but, unfortunately, they realized it too late. For a time, Vincent is a fascinating narrator, but as the various mysteries the show is playing with begin to unravel, his point of view feels redundant. On the other hand, Michael’s story continues to be the series’ saving grace. From watching his heart-wrenching homelife to seeing him slowly uncover more than just Edgar’s disappearance, the show truly shines when he’s on-screen, even if the constant switching in POV hinders the pacing. 

The core mystery in “Eric” is revealed too early, but the penultimate episode is riveting enough to bring you back into the fold. It’s a shame, though, because, from a cast that gives their all to themes of corruption that are timelier than ever, there are aspects of the show that make it feel truly special. I can’t help but think that if there were ten episodes instead of just 6, Vincent and Michael would be able to coexist as two fascinating characters who bring this story to a satisfying end. What we’re left with instead is a series that not only feels at war with itself but with the streaming model as well. 

Whole series screened for review. Premieres in its entirety on Netflix on May 30th.