Given the way 2020 has unfolded and 2021 has begun, I would not be shocked if the decade we are now experiencing were seen as an extremely grueling era in human history. I guess it would be as if the Roaring Twenties were known for their emotional exhaustion. I hope there is a long-term solution to this ongoing fatigue that I and others feel, but at the same time, the temporary cure for this problem is entertainment that makes us happy.”
There is just something cathartic about seeing a movie with a happy ending at a time when things are collectively not happy. I’m not saying I can’t see or enjoy other films like this one, but something about the exhaustion of this new decade has hit these films just a little better.
Much to my delight, a few weeks ago a film club I attend with my friends decided to watch Eddie the Eagle, a sports movie about an Olympic ski jumper in England, Eddie Edwards. At the beginning of the film, young Eddie overcomes an illness that prevents him from running and decides that one day he will compete in the Olympics. The fact is that he doesn’t know which sport to choose. When he discovers that he is not strong in any of the summer disciplines, Eddie tries to get on the British ski jumping team. After they rejected him, he tried to join the ski jumping team, and so began the long and difficult journey of learning – and mastering – a new sport.
And the film really establishes Taron Edgerton as such an engaging character. Eddie is not a natural. His competitors trained in the long jump from a young age. So he goes there with the intention not to win, but just to compete. His goal is to do his best. In one of the best sentences in the film, his rival, Olympic medalist Matti Nykanen, tells Eddie, “Winning, losing, it’s all about little people. People like us jump to free our souls”. We are the only two jumpers who have a chance to make history today. If we do less than we can while the whole world is watching us, it will kill us from the inside. Forever.
Eddie’s Eagle is not really new to the film. He goes to all the bars in the typical sports movie of the underdogs. There’s his mother who supports his Olympic aspirations, there’s his father who thinks he’s a jerk and just wants him to get a real job, and there’s a coach (with a minor alcohol problem to overcome, note) who reluctantly won’t train him but does by the end of the film. And is all this mitigated by the fact that the film is only loosely based on the real story of Eddie Edwards, in that Hugh Jackman’s trainer character was entirely fictional? Sure, it could have been. But if you can put that out of your mind, Eddie the Eagle is just an upbeat movie about a guy who did an incredible job. He makes me so happy.
We should get excited where we can. And if we find a cliché in an ’80s sports movie about wanting to be the best we can be, that’s fine. If you’re looking for a fun and funny movie, Eddie the Eagle is as upbeat and playful as it gets. It’s cliché and sarcastic, but it’s a wonderful experience to turn off the critical part of my brain and enjoy it.
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