By all accounts, writers Sean Macauley and Simon Kelton took a lot of liberties while crafting the story that director Dexter Fletcher brings to the screen in Eddie the Eagle.
And they had a lot to work with to begin with, the way plucky but cash-poor Brit non-athlete Michael “Eddie” Edwards absolutely refused to give up on a dream to become an Olympic athlete and participated in the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary.
To flush out their biopic in this Olympic year — OK, it’s the Summer Games coming up in a few months in Rio, not the snowy variety, but still — they threw in a fictitious and mercurial coach, flirtatious and sympathetic restaurant owner in a German ski jumping training center and compelling qualification tour through Europe.
Loving but split-on-this-dream-thing working-class British parents and imperious, definitely not supportive home country Olympic committee officials whose veracity seem quite likely nicely rounds out the tale.
Our film Eddie starts with a boy plagued with physical maladies that require a leg brace. He reads a book on Olympic heroes, and conjures all sorts of games and exercises that put him in their place somewhere in the future. He grows out of the ailment and brace but never the dream, even becoming one of his area’s best downhill skiers. But a lack of social grace handcuffs him with Olympic-picking sorts, and he’s told he’ll never be up to snuff to make that squad. Dad has long wanted him to enter the family trade and become a plasterer instead. Yet Eddie’s plan moves to ski jumping.
Taron Egerton embraces the grown Eddie role as a great nod to a man with a big heart, no grace and very little social skill. Hugh Jackman makes a worthy foil as the aging former jumper who’s so deep into regrets and contents of a bottomless flask who’s finally won over by the awkward newcomer’s refusal to accept the word no.
At a half-full Saturday matinée in Regal Cinemas’ small theater in Syracuse mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex Destiny USA, it was impossible to not get caught up in Eddie’s desire to beat down his many and varied obstacles.
Even his successes always seemed to be pocked with another looming mental mountain. For instance, he all of a sudden had to ask himself, did all that Calgary celebrating and press publicity after his skis hit solid ground first on the 70-meter event lessen the accomplishments of the athletes who flew further than he did?
Could a try at the big-daddy 90-meter event answer that?
Speaking of monster jumps, the cinematography of those leaps into the big air is quite breath-taking.
Yet the photos of the real Edwards waving and basking placed into the closing credits drive home the point that his reality might not have been as pretty in some ways, but it may have been more beautiful in others.
Do you think there should or shouldn’t be minimum achievement requirements to qualify for all Olympic events, and why? How much leeway do you think Hollywood should take with biography films, and why? What do you prefer to follow more, the Summer or Winter Games, and why?
Here’s the link for the WikiPedia bio for Edwards.
Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Jo Hartley, Keith Allen, Tom Costello, Jack Costello; Mark Benton, Edvin Endre, Rune Temte, Iris Berben, Jim Broadbent, Christopher Walken.