Is it just me, or are biopics turning into the superhero movies for people who hate superhero movies? I mean, I hear complaints left and right about how superhero movies are EVERYWHERE, but no one’s complaining about how we have significantly more biopics. Look at 2015 alone. There were only three superhero movies (that anyone would know about): ANT-MAN, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, and FANT4STIC. But there were more than TWENTY biopics. Hell, in the last two weeks alone, we’ve had two biopics: the Jesse Owens biopic RACE, and now Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards biopic EDDIE THE EAGLE. Between 2012 and 2015, three years of films, THAT’S when superhero movies hit the twenty mark. But just to emphasize, there are WAY too many superhero movies coming out of Hollywood.
I’m not making any real points here. I just found that little tid-bit of information pretty funny to think about.
I’m not complaining about the number of biopics or superhero movies. I love a good story and my taste in stories is a pretty wide net. So now it’s time to mosey on back to the real movie that needs to be talked about in this review.
Once again, I am uncultured swine, so I had no idea who Eddie Edwards is. BUT…. I knew who Hugh Jackman was, and he never hurts a film (yeah yeah, roll your eyes, intellectuals). The movie sure looked sappy, but still good. So yeah, I wanted to see it. I did see it, and this is my honest review of EDDIE THE EAGLE.
Based on the real life of Eddie Edwards, Eddie (Taron Egerton) has wanted to be an athlete and be in the Olympics ever since he was a little kid. The moment he got his leg brace off due to bad knees, he’s been trying to find the sport that would bring out the best in him. He soon discovers that skiing has been his cup of tea and over the course of time proves that he’s not bad at it, albeit embarrassing the big wigs to the point of keeping him out of the Olympics for THEIR sake. But this doesn’t stop Eddie as he learns of a different sport to try before the 1988 Winter Olympics came around: ski jumping. In order to learn it, he seeks out a long-retired ski jumper named Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman). Although hesitant at first, Bronson soon accepts the job of training the amateur jumper and prepare him to qualify for the Olympics.
You know what? The critics aren’t wrong. This movie is schmaltzy. It’s been done before. It’s every bit cliche as the trailer makes it out to be. But you know what? Let those hoity toity journalists and career writers run their mouths with negativity while I say that it IS predictable and sappy… in all the right ways.
You have the plucky protagonist who’s the underdog. He’s constantly told that he can’t do it, even by his own dad. He’s determined to prove everyone wrong! Yeah, yeah, we all know this story. But I have to say that no other underdog story sold me on its protagonist quite like this. ROCKY? Rocky was kind of a jerk sometimes… also not the most interesting of characters. KARATE KID (1984)? Daniel was kind of a jerk sometimes too. MIGHTY DUCKS got it right (the first time anyway). COOL RUNNINGS did it right. Now, EDDIE THE EAGLE does it right. The verbal attacks on him not being a true athlete or a failure can be pretty brutal, but through Egerton’s performance, we see that he’s hurt by the words and actions of those who think he won’t amount to anything, but it’s uplifting that he’ll try and ignore it and work to find a new way to progress. The great thing about Eddie is that he genuinely doesn’t quit… alright, he quits once at the beginning, but that’s under fairly extreme circumstances; right before switching from a sport he’s been practicing in for a number of years to another one that he’s never dabbled in. But from this point on, it’s brutal verbal assault and unstoppable determination and I love that in a character.
Jackman… uh, need I say more? Yeah, sure, his character is every disgruntled alcoholic coach that’s ever been put on screen, but by God he is just so charismatic and lovable in a douchebag kind of way. I’m not even kidding, his story arch alongside Eddie is almost the same formula as HAPPY GILMORE. Athlete needs to learn a new sport, coach teaches him, coach leaves the story for a time, then comes back later on in the movie. But I think what makes him work a little better is that there is some time given to his backstory. He drinks a lot, sure, but there is an explanation why. He was a golden boy, a prodigy in the sport, and he let that glory go to his head. He almost didn’t care about the sport, just the attention it got him, despite how good he was in that sport. This has always been a regret for the character and it’s completely sympathetic. Not that it wasn’t his own damn fault, but you can understand someone who’s that flawed: delusions of grandeur getting the best of you and trying to make up for it later on.
But if there’s any real shout-out that should be given to the movie is the amazing character of Janette and her brilliant performance by Jo Hartley. I absolutely adore this character who constantly fuels Eddie’s drive to do the best he can, even if it means making more financial sacrifices, or pissing off her husband. There is something about a parent who makes these choices for their kids to realize their dreams that makes them feel so timeless on film and heart-warming to the point where I seriously choked up. Hartley’s voice is so soft, so loving, so hopeful for her son that… she just gives me hope for humanity. The chemistry she shares with Egerton when they share screen time is so believable, they’re easy highlights of the movie.
Now we come to a subject that I think is always worth addressing when it comes to biopics: accuracy.
Before filming began it was revealed by the real life Eddie Edwards in an interview with BBC News that the film will only be five percent faithful to what really happened. See, that’s something that always bums me out when Hollywood does that. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it every time a biopic comes out, but not everyone knows who Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards is. Biopics are a great way to raise awareness of that someone. But why make the events fictional? Why not tell the story like it was? If you change too much, what can the audience trust what is being shown as the truth? Change too much, it’s barely a biopic anymore and just becomes a standard underdog sports movie that just HAPPENS to have a real person in it. That’s fine if that’s what you’re going for, but this movie is clearly trying to do the character and his life justice, even though it’s revealed that they aren’t going to be that faithful to the real events.
In fact, it’s so inaccurate, that Jackman’s character Bronson Peary isn’t even a real person. In an article written by Sage Young of bustle.com, Bronson is a fictional character created specifically for the movie. In real life, Eddie Edwards was trained by two coaches. Once again, it would have been so much more of an honest movie and informative if the story had just used the real people to tell the story. Who knows how that would have changed the dynamics of the characters, how different the interactions would have been, or the exchanged dialog. It’s a real-life story that when all is said and done, we uninformed audience members will never truly see.
But… then a sudden realization hit me: it almost doesn’t matter. Why would it almost not matter in this case as opposed to other cases? Because in that same article on bustle.com, Eddie’s real-life coach Chuck Berghorn didn’t mind that Jackman’s character would be fictional. That’s an interesting angle to think about it from, don’t you think? What if this movie was made using the real life coach against his will? Guess what, not everyone wants a movie based on their lives. People have a right to their privacy and don’t need Hollywood to “interpret” their lives for the entertainment of general audiences. If this movie had done that, it’d be garbage no matter how well-written or entertaining it’d be. But as that isn’t the case here, the movie kind of lucks out and the lack of ill-will toward the inaccuracy should be taken into consideration.
In the same article on bbc.com, Eddie Edwards doesn’t seem to be up in arms about the inaccuracies of the film either. He doesn’t seem like he’s speaking out against the film at all. Instead, he praises Egerton’s performance and that he’s got him down to a tee. Once again, the spirit of Eddie Edwards shines through. “It doesn’t matter if I come in last, I made it to the Olympics and did my best, and that’s all that matters.” That mentality is amazing to see even when a movie is based on him. What does it say about a man who has a movie coming out based on his life and is aware of how inaccurate it is, but instead focuses on how the actor portraying him is wonderful and perfectly like him? Once again, this deserves some merit.
While the inaccuracies prevent the movie from being a functional biopic, it’s still a wonderfully written and acted spectacle that’s hard to not get wrapped up in. If you’re a sucker for these kind of characters like me, then I think you will care about the cliches like Eddie the Eagle cares about finishing in last at the Olympics. A damn fine movie was made and I think is worth seeing.
My honest rating: 4/5