Monday, March 21, 2016

Film: "Eddie the Eagle"

The Underdog...someone that is expected to fail or lose (usually referenced in sports or athletics) given the circumstances and odds [In cinema, see "Rocky" (doesn't matter if original or sequels), "Gladiator", "Lord of the Rings", "Star Wars: A New Hope", etc., etc., etc.]. And in cinema, the Underdog usually/sometimes comes out victorious which gives the audience someone (or something) to cheer for. Yes, it's formula. And in some instances ,it works; as in "Eddie the Eagle", a recent feature with Taron Egerton as Michael Edwards, the first competitor to represent Great Britain in ski jumping in the 1988 Calgary Olympics  - in fulfillment of his childhood dream. 

"Where'ya goin' Eddie?" says Eddie's mum to a 6 year old boy.  
"I'm going to the Olympics mum" replies Eddie as he heads off to catch the bus to...wherever the Olympics were going to be hosted. It's a signal of a determination and commitment that underlines this pleasing biopic and one that even tugs at the heartstrings. 

Michael "Eddie" Edwards competing in the Olympics
This movie soars with tenderness and a very, very heartfelt, down-to-earth performance by Taron Egerton as Michael "Eddie" Edwards. From the get-go, we see both the humility and the perseverance of Eddie through Taron's much calibrated, nuanced performance. Taron superbly evokes Eddie's quiet naivete, incorrigible stubbornness, dangerous haughtiness and infectious zealousness for his new-found sport quite convincingly, it was hard NOT to cheer on Eddie's campaign (to become the first British ski jump competitor at the Olympics, something the British Olympic Committee wanted to sweep under the dirtiest rug, as well as his actual ski jump competitions, first to get him qualified and compete!) 

Taron Egerton plays the headstrong Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards

Add to the story the guiding direction of former champion downhill ski jumper (now turned washed up alcoholic handyman) Bronson Peary, played just under the collar by Hugh Jackman, and the Obi-Wan Kenobi/Luke Skywalker story is retooled for Olympic ski jumping;  which is fine, because Jackman's supportive role doesn't overstep Taron's innocence; in fact, it defines it a bit more and they share some very poignant scenes in the movie. 
Hugh Jackman plays Bronson Peary, Eddie's ex-champion ski jump coach.

"Who's your favorite actress Eddie?" asks Peary. 
"Bo Derek" replies Eddie. 
"Ski jumping is like making love to Bo Derek", explains Peary. 
...blank stare on Eddie's face...

Director Dexter Flectcher's quick pace, stapled on the upside by an 80's musical score as well as references to pop culture of the time, makes the movie enjoyable and takes full advantage of a lot of the formulaic cliches and expected "underdog" tactics. But what was surprising, at least to me, is that the expected result isn't quite what was expected; yet, Eddie shines through and is buoyed by his accomplishment...which,  in turn, uplifts the human spirit. And it was real...."cool"!