Eddie the Eagle, 2016.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher.
Starring Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Keith Allen, Jo Hartley, Rune Temte, Iris Berben, Jim Broadbent, and Christopher Walken.
The story of Eddie Edwards, the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Eddie the Eagle is not your traditional biopic. Sure, it follows the real-life trials and tribulations of Eddie Edwards’ quest to become an Olympian, specifically an Olympic ski jumper, but instead of settling for something saccharine or melodramatic with its inspiration, director Dexter Fletcher treats the proceedings with flourishes of lighthearted fun and whimsical family-friendly comedy. It’s a film that borders on not taking itself seriously, while also never losing sight of the very poignant message it is attempting to dictate, which is essentially that while winning is important and most definitely worth praise, sometimes it is participation and putting your best foot forward that are equally deserving of applaud.
Fundamentally crucial to the success of Eddie the Eagle is the portrayal of the titular studious, thick-rimmed glasses sporting, young British lad, by Tarot Egerton (who is one of the brightest young actors working today, tackling a drastically different role here from his debut lead in the ultra-violent James Bond reminiscent spoof Kingsman: The Secret Service) with a great degree of asexuality and an eye-on-the-prize mentality.
Honestly, he makes these really weird faces at times (for a while, during the beginning, I initially thought the character was supposed to be mentally challenged, and that isn’t a knock against mentally challenged people, because I know people love misconstruing statements to attack writers) that make it look like he’s over-acting, but it’s easily overlooked considering Eddie Edwards has an unbreakable spirit and undying determination to achieve his lifelong dream that is impossible not to respect. He’s likable from the very opening scene where a 10-year-old version of himself is seen attempting to break his own personal record for holding his breath underwater in a bathtub.
There are some areas of Eddie’s life that could have been better fleshed out (there is a quick childhood scene of doctors diagnosing him with a dodgy knee, encouraging him not to play sports, yet it’s never really explained what was wrong with his knee, leaving the impression that most of the subplot was cut out of the film entirely), but once again, the spirit of his personality is enough to create a likable vessel for the narrative. It’s also nice not having superfluous romance angles to bog down the flow of the story; it’s all just about reaching the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.
Eddie also has support from his loving mother, while is consistently told by his father to forget his dreams in favor of exploring more realistic ventures in life, although it’s never done maliciously. The tone of Eddie the Eagle is that of something from an 80s family film, which is also highly appropriate considering the movie also acts as a love letter to the era, complete with upbeat feel good rock music blasting over cliché training montages. That’s not a negative either, it’s all glorious.
Mostly because Eddie is trained by former American Olympic ski jumper now turned drunk living in Germany, Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), who develops an unlikely bond as a coach for Eddie. As you would expect, there’s the usual back-talking attitude to be expected from Hugh Jackman, but he’s also a likable person as he, at first reluctantly, offers advice. There is also an amazing training segment where he compares aspects like gaining altitude and sticking landings to fantasizing different stages of sexual activity, including orgasms. Watching Hugh Jackman act out something so ridiculous is also nothing short of hilarious. The chemistry he and Egerton share, even when the movie is heading through familiar plot beats, is marvelous and will have you rooting for the duo.
One of the only problems with Eddie the Eagle is that because it is a movie about simply earning a spot and participating in the winter Olympics, with placing last being considered victorious, there isn’t a whole lot to invest in and get emotional over; the real journey is about earning the spot, leaving the final 30 minutes or so feeling a bit too self-aggrandizing. Eddie has a quick conversation with a friendly rival about winning vs participation, but it all feels tacked on and unnecessary. The real intrigue of the final act comes from watching Eddie blow up within the media, but it’s disappointing that he never brings up the fact that the British Olympics committee did everything in their power to stop him from competing and were never in his corner. It’s a missed opportunity for a subplot that would have sparked fireworks and given the committee some much-needed comeuppance.
The most important thing about Eddie the Eagle however, is that it does successfully find refreshing ways to inspire us to chase after our own dreams that may seem impossible. Instead of playing out as super serious Oscar-bait, the movie establishes a tone of its own (one that fits the strengths of the filmmakers and actors involved), and is primarily concerned with delivering viewers a feel-good whimsical experience, while also shining a spotlight onto a little-known underdog that many of us can relate.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★