Eddie the Eagle soars to near fallible emotional heights.
The beauty of watching athleticism en masse is that, in theory, everyone is brought together. The Olympics are the ultimate testament to this; it seems the whole world turns whatever devices possible to follow the games and share victory or cringe in defeat with fellow fans. I have never been a sports person and have therefore never really followed any athletic event, but I do enjoy physical comedy and a good underdog tale. Eddie the Eagle simultaneously fulfills the need for mass athletic fandom with (seemingly painful) pratfalls and unstoppable optimism.
Eddie the Eagle, a film inspired by true events, follows Michael “Eddie” Edwards (played by Taron Egerton) through a journey of self determination and mass injuries to the 1988 Winter Olympics for ski jumping. His desire to be an Olympian started at a young age, despite his bad knees, poor eyesight, and disapproving father. Watching Eddie train himself with not much more than enthusiasm and what appeared to be a never-ending supply of glasses reminded me of childhood in its purest form: a young kid who knows his dreams deep within, but who also lacks balance and hand eye coordination. But the real story begins when Eddie, who was considered for the 1988 Great Britain Olympic Skiing Team, resorts to ski jumping to make his way into the games as an Olympian.
I found myself going back and forth between giggles and silence watching Eddie become Eddie the Eagle. This young man had already been discouraged by his father and the Great Britain Olympic Committee; he was only pursuing ski jumping as means to fulfill his dreams of going to the Olympics as a competitor. Yes, the comedic juxtaposition of watching Eddie fumble and flail hopelessly before crashing was delightful to watch, and also provided a convenient introduction to his quasi coach and former Olympic hopeful Bronson Peary (played by a grumbling Hugh Jackman). But his repeated failures and the nonstop rejection of his dreams hit me hard. We’ve all been there, I think; dreams and aspirations combined with spectacular failures and intensely negative feedback really eat at a person’s soul. My heart kept breaking as I watched the sadness return to Egerton’s eyes every time his character received more verbal harassment and abuse.
But that’s the beauty of this film despite the fact that this is an intensely 80s sports montage film, you can still relate to the main character because his pain is so undeniably real for all of us. Eddie the Eagle embodies hope and determination. This is a guy who went to the Winter Games and placed dead last, and is still incredibly proud of it because he did what he always wanted to do: compete in the Olympics. It doesn’t matter how stereotypical Jackman’s character is as he takes a swig from his American flag flask, squinting at his past glory and Olympic ski jumping jacket. It doesn’t matter how unbelievably awful the electric keyboard montage music is (which was the worst and most distracting part of the film for me, but definitely made you feel like you were back in the 1980s). Eddie the Eagle, who is still beloved by many for his unabashed excitement in the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, contains the spirit and self confidence that we all want.
This film isn’t about an athlete, or the absurdity of Olympic regulations. This film is about a man who never stopped believing in himself and his dreams. And it’s worth seeing Eddie the Eagle for that alone, if only so that maybe some of us can remember how to believe in ourselves again.
Eddie the Eagle opens in theaters today, Feb. 26th.