After it’s successful screening at Sundance, reviews are now up for this film due for release in March in the UK…
Inspiration is a funny thing. Idols who achieve feats we can’t comprehend are on a different planet. Inspirations are easier to understand. We’re inspired by the tough goal they’ve set for themselves and realistically appreciate their tenacity in hitting the target. We think we could do it ourselves.
Eddie the Eagle has a huge heart and celebrates the enthusiastic passion of a wannabe Olympian, Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards. First and foremost, Eddie the Eagle is a comedy, laughing with, and at, Michael Edwards, the UK’s entry for ski-jumping. But there is a conflict. Is Eddie achieving a feat we can’t comprehend or is he simply managing to do something nobody else cares to do? As a third option, is Dexter Fletcher’s light-hearted Eddie the Eagle laughing at an enthusiastic kid, trying so hard, but laughably being accepted only as a mere joke.
Eddie the Eagle is immersed in nostalgia. Memories of BBC’s Record Breakers litters the soundtrack, scored by Matthew Margeson. Interspersed with Deacon Blue and Van Halen, the era is the flamboyantly coloured, ill-fitting, late 1980’s. Eddie is obsessed with the Olympics, but he’s clumsy. Lacking the refined posture and formal presentation of the skiers selected to compete, he’s told in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t have the Olympic spirit to truly reach such lofty heights. But, he realises, there is a sport that the UK have no hand in. A terrifying, daring sport where competitors need to ski, and jump off, an enormous height. This is a jump that the UK don’t even have the equipment to support, forcing Eddie to travel to Germany, to practice. But he has no experience. Hurting himself, he spies an American ex-champion who can help. Enter Bronson Peary (gh Jackman), and reluctantly, he trains Eddie to become the first British ski-jumper, who could – by default – become a new record-setter for the UK.
With the rush of a water slide, the ski-jumping context is a thrill. Shooting down the track, bursting into the air and touching the sky, before falling to the biggest challenge: landing. The freezing climate and life-threatening challenge seems to capture the spirit of Rocky, put places it on Mount Everest. With a touch of Dodgeball comedy to sew it all together, Eddie the Eagle does elicit a wide-grin with a punching-the-air pay off that’s incredibly uplifting. It’s a positive tale of hard work with little heartache. A clear, title-carded structure safely builds momentum in the story too: The jumps begin at 15 metres; then 40 and 70 metres; finally, the death-defying 90 metres. With a Cool Runnings reference subtly placed (both true sports stories taking place in 1988), Fletcher is trying to capture a British zeitgeist. Rather than a Jamaican bobsleigh team, it’s a pattern-jumper-clad, cups-of-tea-obsessed British ski-jump team.
Taron Edgerton plays a sweet, bumbling lad, a far call from the street-smart Kingsman agent last year. Indeed, his performance is so markedly different to his previous role, Eddie the Eagle feels more like a showcase for his talent rather than a vehicle for Hugh Jackman. Jackman portrays a lost man, finding solace at the end of a bottle. The two actors blend together well and, as intended, its fun to be in their company. But despite the championing of Eddie, and his moral victory over the snobby winter sportsmen that surround him, the film doesn’t necessarily hold the same respect.
This is where it sits unevenly for me. When we see his cheap, ramshackle bedroom it reinforces Eddie’s klutz persona. His uncomfortable mumble highlighting a lack of social skills and, perhaps, education. Laughing at him, it sometimes feels as if his working-class roots and unrealistic ambition are being mocked. The superior athletes are more accomplished, but what they mock, the story of Eddie the Eagle seems to be laughing at too. Writers Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton have taken an enormous amount of creativity to tell this story, but perhaaps this element reveals their truest intentions.
Ignoring this slight concern, Eddie the Eagle is the tale of a lucky lad, with a perseverance few people have. Eddie’s an outsider, and this could be a social-issue, or it could be his oddball personality. He wins us over through Taron Edgerton’s charming performance and, when he soars, we’re up there with him. Eddie the Eagle ensures we hold a big smile on our face when the credits roll, this positive, inspirational message alone forgives some slightly uneven elements.
Originally published for Flickering Myth