I don’t really need to tell you the overarching plot of Eddie the Eagle, the based-on-a-true-story sports biopic that came out last week, because in a sense you already know it: winsome, enthusiastic underdog really wants to do sports, and with the help of a gruff, reluctant coach, he achieves his dreams. Dedication and Desire and Believing in Himself are tantamount to his glory, and have as much or more to do with his success than actual skill. And we know he’ll achieve his dreams, because his mum believes in him, even when his mean old dad wants him to give up and join the workforce. You’ve seen this movie before.
What sets Eddie slightly apart from others of its ilk is that its protagonist, played by Taron Egerton, is a naive, sunshiny doofus in terrible 1980s bottle glasses. Here’s a picture of the real Eddie:
I am not a sports person at all, but I love a good Olympics tale, and this is one. Eddie Edwards was a British downhill skier who just missed qualifying for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. So he was like, no big, I’ll just become a ski jumper and get into the Olympics THAT way. Why? Because Great Britain didn’t have any ski jumpers at all (if you have zero competition in something, it’s a quick rise to the top).
Edwards did make it to Calgary, and finished last in every jump, given that he’d been training for 18 months or so. But people loved him regardless (and many loved him precisely BECAUSE he was such a flop). He was so gosh-durn excited to be there, whooping and cheering and cheesing for the camera after a successful jump, not dead and broken in the snow like pretty much everyone anticipated.
This film is not exactly *great*, but it is very fun. The score is a zippy, synthesized medley with standards ’80s hits, complemented by ominous piano when you’re looking down from the top of the ski jumps and soaring violins when Eddie lands without any broken body parts. Hugh Jackman plays Bronson Peary, a fictionalized amalgam of several of Edwards’s coaches (he’s meant to be a washed-up alcoholic, though I think the directors let him look a little too hale and hearty for someone who chugs whiskey from the moment he wakes up.) There are mullets and Fair Isle sweaters for days. The dialogue is reliably kitschy and cliched–seriously, do not walk into this movie expecting anything that comes close to nuance.
The point is, Eddie wouldn’t have touched me as well as it did without Egerton’s ability to play a sweet, adorkable goon so well:
Ugh, he kills me. Watch Eddie sit at a German cafe and shiver as the heat lamps go out, knowing that he has to stay if he wants to train but he has no place to sleep. Watch his face get all bruised and beaten as he tries to land the 40-meter jump over and over before Coach HandsomeFace steps in out of pity. Watch him only ever drink milk. Watch him freak out from excitement as he beats record after record, even while reigning as International Hilariously Bad Ski-Jumper. I wanted to give him a hug and buy him some contact lenses, and I also wanted him to get everything he ever wanted.
You would have to be the world’s biggest killjoy to hate this movie, even though your instinct to do so would be right on the money.
Rating: a thousand hearts, or whatever, I don’t care