Eddie The Eagle
Cert: PG / 106 mins / Dir. Dexter Fletcher / Trailer
It's the 28th of March, and we in the UK have just performed the bi-annual ritual of padding around the house looking for wall-clocks, thermostats and microwaves to change the time on, as we stride into British Summer Time. And it might not be a massive coincidence that this week sees the Monday-release*1 of Olympic biopic Eddie the Eagle, because this is a film you can set your watch by...
Every single frame has been labouredly engineered for maximum cloying effect, with director Dexter Fletcher and producer Matthew Vaughn poring over the British Underdog Movie Handbook until the pages started to wear through. The titular Edwards' humble beginnings, his supportive parents, and never-say-die attitude are absolutely textbook, as is the pantomime-like performance of the sneering detractors and contemporaries that surround him at every turn*2, the mechanical structure of the once-failed-mentor archetype and the film score which tells you Exactly What To Think All Of The Time. Eddie The Eagle also uses the musically-backed-training-montage like it invented the damned thing. And then Christopher Walken turns up and plays Christopher Walken™.
The fact that this film is based around true events actually (or should actually) gives it less of an excuse to follow the tried and tested formula, as it feels like it's somehow not trying hard enough by relying on a structure we're all familiar with anyway. But on it ploughs, the phrase "Feel-good crowd-pleaser" seemingly red-stamped over every page of the script. Even if you know nothing about the history of Britain's favourite underdog, this film holds absolutely no surprises.
It's also really fucking good.
Much like its subject and the aspects of his situation he can't control, the film has its own inherent obstacles that have to be conquered before it can win the hearts of the audience. And much like its subject, the film succeeds on charm, rather than outright ability. You can be every bit as cynical and jaded as I was walking into this movie, but if Eddie's final 90m jump at the 1988 Winter Olympics doesn't have goosebumps on your neck and a tear in your eye, you're probably some kind of robot.
And it's all down to Taron Egerton in the title-role, with an insanely likeable performance that never gives in to mawkishness even when the rest of the movie does. To capture the raw essence of optimism, his is the hardest job in the film; and he's the one that does the best because of it. Hugh Jackman is amusing and reliable as his trainer, Bronson Peary (but as noted above, has little to bring to an already-clichéd role), and Eddie's parents played by Jo Hartley and Ceith Allen are great support, the surrogate-audience within the film willing Eddie to triumph. But the film really works because of Egerton's performance, and would be a dud without him.
Sure, Eddie The Eagle will be lauded by the kind of outlets you wouldn't normally take serious recommendations from*3, and will be a mainstay in the 'Ideas for Mother's Day' POS displays for years to come. But you owe it to yourself to see it just once. And those first-person-perspective ski-jumps look phenomenal on a big screen, so now's your chance...
Any British Underdog Movie™ of the 1990s.
The film deserves your support at the box-office, yes.
Against my expectations, and against its own obstacles, yes.
Dexter Fletcher is the man who directed Sunshine On Leith".
I'll just leave that there.
Level 2: Taron Egerton was in that Kingsman: The Secret Service along with Mark 'Skywalker' Hamill and Sam 'Windu' Jackson.
*1 A phenomenon we're seeing more and more of, lately. Traditionally, new movies would come out on a Friday, maybe a Thursday. Occasionally we'd even get a Wednesday release, but this was seen as a transparent ploy to extend the film's precious opening weekend takings, as anything before the end of the first Sunday counts toward that total. Are Monday releases just the studios' way of saying "fuck it, we'll have the week's worth"? Because once everyone starts doing that, the comparative figures will mean nothing again (although it's debatable if they mean anything to anyone outside of the accounting departments anyway). If only there was a collective push at making movies as artistically and aesthetically competitive, but hey.
*2 Really though, I know the role description is "Snooty and Dismissive Head of Olympic Selection Committee", but Tim McInnerny should be ashamed of his performance in this film, playing the part on 11 when it only needs 8. Mark Benton and Jim Broadbent are only a short way behind him, but are at least absolved by having fewer lines on-screen...
*2 And I self-deprecatingly include World Of Blackout in that spectrum. What's that? I'm doing a great job here and you value and respect my opinions even if you don't always agree with them? Oh, be quiet you lot, saying those things...
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.