The first images that appear on the silver screen are the infamous words, “based on a true story” or “inspired by." This claim can make or break your film. It allows us to suspend belief and accept everything presented on screen no matter what because if it happened in real life then it can happen in the screenplay. But it also leaves itself vulnerable to those who know the true story and nit pick every inaccuracy or Hollywood embellishment. Such is the case with Eddie The Eagle. The whole time you are sitting there hoping this is what really happened and wishing that the characters really acted that way in that particular moment. The real guy, Eddie Edwards, claims the film is about 10 to 15% accurate… Let’s hope that percentage is the triumphant moments of the underdog overcoming all the odds to achieve his dream that left the audience cheering.
Just like the real character’s life story, the film has low moments accompanied by extreme high moments. It’s an up and down cinematic roller coaster ride that alternates from cheesy by the numbers “follow your dreams” scenes and charming, humorous well-thought-out moments that raises the movie-goer onto a high ski slope of fun.
This movie is fun. I haven’t seen a feel-good underdog film like this since the 80s. Honoring the time period (late 80s) seems to be very important to the filmmakers, which can be felt in the “so-bad-it’s-good” soundtrack and score. But the overall spirit and heart of the film feels like it was nurtured in a 1980s Hollywood, hit-making machine, which I see as refreshing. It’s a good thing! We have been getting too used to gritty, in-your-face, coming of age stories. That genre reached perfection with Creed but it’s now time to open our minds to a different kind of underdog and this Eagle is that dog.
Since this is a biopic, the filmmakers were obligated to inform us of his childhood, which apparently consisted of nothing but people telling him he will never make it to the Olympics. But there was a very interesting Forrest Gump aspect to the film that I feel was glossed over. As a child, he had braces on his legs. Then he gets them off and they hardly mention it again.
All of us Kingsmen fans out there were eager to see what Taron Egerton would do next. He could have jumped on to the next blockbuster, based on a tween novel, but no. He took a different route and played against his movie-star good looks. Donning a nerdy hairstyle, some upper lip, peach fuzz, glasses that magnify his bulging eyeballs and a chin that sticks out almost to Sling Blade proportions, the character was an interesting and brave choice for this young rising star. Eddie the Eagle won’t be the role that makes him a household name but it is a step in the right direction. Plus, it shows he is more than just an action star in a suit. It reminds me of when Ryan Gosling did Lars and The Real Girl.
Then we have the most reliable actor in Hollywood as the drunk, American mentor: Mr. Hugh Jackman. Jackman defiantly has a lot of fun in this film and gets a chance at some dramatic moments too. Once or twice he is required to hold back tears. The only problem is that there was not enough of him. And his character is fictional, which takes away from the “this is cool because it’s true” aspect. But it is hard to remove the smile from your face when a drunk Hugh Jackman soars down the ski slop in slow motion as Thin Lizzy’s “Cowboy” rocks on. This Australian is great at playing an American, but in case you needed help remembering his country of origin, the filmmakers gave him a flask sporting the American flag on it. He is the perfect American cowboy who proudly wears the boots and reluctantly takes the new gunslinger under his wing. He even references the Old West when explaining the dangers of ski jumping.
Not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing but this film pulls at just the right heartstrings at just the right times. It follows everything a movie needs to do to have that moment where the unsupportive, grumpy father finally says he is “proud.” If it 'aint broke, don’t fix it. That was one of a handful of moments where the audience clapped with joy. Cinema is about stirring emotions and this film did exactly what it set out to do. It accomplished its dreams, just like Eddie.
My biggest problem with the film is that the story relies too much on the training montages. Sometimes it seemed like the script read, “Insert another montage here.” Dialogue was an issue too. The delivery was fine but most of the lines seem like they were taken from inspirational posters. Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% for pursuing dreams; just do it with better dialogue. There are some moments when Eddie hears Obi-Wan Kenobi-like voices in his head. They tell him to “never give up!” or “give up!”…depending on the scene. It really took me out of the film. The actor’s performances were strong enough that I already knew what was going on in his head.
All in all, the film was very charming. It had 1980s charm that the nostalgia crowd will enjoy. Eddie The Eagle even has sprinkles of some clever British humor that kept me chuckling. You find yourself thinking, “this Eddie is a fool, but I love his foolishness!” So when he crashes you laugh, when he lands you cheer, and when he gets hurt you care. It’s a win-win-win situation! It is hard not to enjoy this story.
This film left out some true elements to Eddie Edward’s life that I feel would have elevated the stakes and suspense. The real Eddie Edwards had to wear six pairs of socks to make his shoes fit. That fun little fact was cut from the film. If included, this detail could have added to the audience appreciating his struggle more. The same thing goes for Eddie’s glasses. In real life the glasses would fog up, leaving him blind during the jump. Talk about added tension! But no, this was also left on the cutting room floor. (We did get to see Eddie comically wipe off his glasses for a second during yet another training montage)
Similar to the hockey film Miracle, the real ending was bittersweet. Eddie never made it to the Olympics again. After Eddie Edwards, the Olympics changed the rules so we could never have another Eddie The Eagle, but in a way that’s what makes his story so special. He did have another chance at Olympic redemption when he got to carry the torch in 2010, alongside the first, Jamaican bobsled team. Yes, this is the same 1988 Winter Olympics. One Winter Olympics inspired two different movies. Very cool! In a way, Eddie the Eagle is a semi-sequel to Cool Runnings. (They at least exist in the same universe. There is even a subtle reference to those silly Jamaicans when Eddie and Hugh Jackman listen to the radio)
PS. Watch Werner Herzog’s The Great Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner, before going to see Eddie The Eagle. It’s not about Eddie Edwards but it set the cinematic ski jumping mood and Herzog helps you truly understand the beauty and art of this glorious/dangerous sport. Watch Herzog's short documentary on Youtube here
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