Friday, March 04, 2016

Eddie the Eagle

This is probably a better movie than I make it sound in the review, because it's a lot easier for me to home in on why it didn't really land for me more than why it does. Sure, Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman give amiable performances, but I don't know acting as well as story, so it's harder for me too dissect. I didn't come out of this movie grumpy or particularly feeling like it was a bad way to set the MoviePass 24-hour clock, but I didn't feel hugely impressed, either.

I wonder, a bit, whether my basic disdain for the Olympics as an organization, kicked into overdrive by the recent attempt to hold them in Boston, which would have been a terrible mess that locals would have had to pay for. The extortion and waste that goes into these things is astonishing, and when you consider how NBC has made them very difficult to enjoy as sports, or even global events, versus stories of American athletes, over what must be two decades by now... Well, it becomes hard to remember that these games were exciting during the 1980s, even if part of it was from them being a Cold War proxy. It's hard for me to get back in the mindset that the Olympics were noble and grand. Is it the same for others?

Oh, and one other thing: As an American who grew up in this time period, I can help but be disappointed that there was no reference to the Wide World of Sports opening, specifically "the agony of defeat", at all. Sure, it's a British film and story, but you'd think Jackman's made-up American trainer would mention it!

Eddie the Eagle

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 26 February 2016 in Regal Fenway #7 (first-run, DCP)

This film starts with the customary "based upon a true story" text, although a few minutes on the Internet indicates that while, yes, a British skier by the name of Harry "Eddie" Edwards did compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics in the ski-jumping events, most of the story leading up to that in the movie is, shall we say, embellished. I almost wish they'd embellished it more; Eddie the Eagleis a smooth but rote Inspirational Sports Story, and a version that is either barbed but true-to-life or more absurdly exaggerated would certainly have been more interesting.

In this one, Eddie starts out in a leg brace but still dreams of not just being an athlete but am Olympian, although he doesn't discover what he feels is his true calling until a skiing center is built nearby. He grows to become on of Britain's top skiers, but is rejected from the 1984 team as much for his working-class background as anything else. Eddie (Taron Egerton) has barely been working with his plasterer father for days before he his upon a new plan - become a ski-jumper, which Britain hasn't had for decades. To that end, he heads to a German training camp, trying to learn by trial and error until alcoholic groundsman Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a disgraced former member of the American team, ages to help the British kid train before he gets killed.

Do people still think of the Olympics as a laudable goal and institution in and of itself, rather than just the highest and most visible level of composition for certain sports surrounded by a whole mess of corruption (and, especially in America, shredded into bland TV programming)? That is certainly the impression I get of the Games, with this film's "by amateurs, we mean gentlemen" visible on the margins. I ask, because the Olympics themselves being the goal is at the core of why Eddie the Eagle often seems somewhat hollow - Eddie's goal isn't actually the drive to achieve greatness in any particular area, or to crash the party of the upper classes that have been keeping the likes of him down. It is, basically, to get on TV, and the film seldom confronts that; the nobility of chasing any dream rather than getting into the boring but practical family business is taken as a given, and it makes the signature moment that gives the film its title kind of muddled: Is just being there because you were able to find a way past the gatekeepers what we should cheer for in a sports movie, or does that undercut the ideals that made Eddie want to be an Olympian? It's a contradiction that the film never truly addresses.

Full review on EFC.

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