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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Eddie the Eagle movie review: white man can’t jump, much

Eddie the Eagle yellow light

Yet another celebration of an overconfident mediocre white man as charming, heroic, and worthy of emulation. It’s inspirational!
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Canadian writer and feminist Sarah Hagi recently said a glorious thing: “Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.” This kept ringing in my brain as I tolerated yet another celebration of an overconfident mediocre white man as charming, heroic, and worthy of emulation. In many ways, Eddie the Eagle is more insufferable than the whatever Triumph of the Ordinary Schmoe that opened last week at the local multiplex, and the one two weeks before that, because it is based on a true story that has been largely fictionalized to, theoretically, render it even more “inspirational” than it would otherwise have been. While stories about actual brilliant women who have done amazing things struggle to get made, and mostly don’t get made at all, a movie about a literal loser is considered uplifting and moving because, well, he tried, bless his little heart. Because he showed up.

Showing up is almost all Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards had to do in order to qualify as a ski jumper on the British Winter Olympics team for the 1988 Calgary Games, as depicted here. (And in spite of the extreme fictionalization, this bit does seem to be largely true.) Britain had never fielded a ski jumper before, and an overlooked loophole in the rules meant he only had to make a single appearance in competition — he didn’t even need to win or anything — for a spot on the team. Once at the Olympics, he set British Olympic ski-jumping records because no British ski jumper had ever competed before in the Olympics. (He set records by doing the bare minimum required, which is landing his jumps.) He came in dead last in both his events, but his clownish antics endeared him to the crowds in Calgary and watching on TV.

Now, the real Edwards appears to have been a better sportsman than this film lets on, and ski jumping is no joke. Here, though, he is a clumsy, unathletic oaf who doesn’t seem to have much innate talent on skis at all. When a member of Britain’s Olympic committee (Tim McInnerny: Spooks: The Greater Good, Doctor Who) informs him that he will “never be Olympic material,” it seems less like the classist villainy the film suggests it is — only rich boys from posh schools get to ski for Britain, you see — and more like a simple statement of fact: harsh, perhaps, but not unfair. And we have Taron Egerton playing Eddie like a sort of alpine Forrest Gump: his performance consists primarily of squinting a lot though enormous spectacles — Eddie is extremely farsighted — and clenching his jaw. Egerton has real range: he is unrecognizable here compared to his working-class spy in Kingsman: The Secret Service, and neither character looks anything like his soft WWI-era intellectual turned soldier in Testament of Youth. But his Eddie is little more than a gimmicky pantomime.

So, so far, we’ve got the film making Eddie less talented than he was, and facing more barriers than he did. What else can Eagle invent? How about a completely ahistorical coach in washed-up former Olympian ski-jumper Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman: Pan, Chappie), whom Eddie meets on the slopes of Austria where he goes to train? Peary is now an alcoholic employed as a snow-plough driver, an athlete who is the “biggest disappointment” of his former coach, totally fictional Warren Sharp (Christopher Walken: Jersey Boys, A Late Quartet). Will Peary get a chance to redeem himself through training Eddie? Of course he will! Men don’t just deserve a chance — they deserve a second chance! And sometimes even a third. It’s inspirational!

First-timer screenwriters Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton play wholly by the clichéd Hollywood rulebook. (As does director Dexter Fletcher. Will Van Halen’s “Jump” make an audio appearance? Of course it will.) Will Peary disparage expertise and professionalism, and insist that ski-jumping is as much art as sport? You betcha. A guy like Eddie doesn’t need talent: he just needs to Feel some nebulous It, and this will protect him from killing himself in a dangerous sport, and get him all the way to the Olympics. I stress again that this movie bears little resemblance to the real Eddie’s real story, and doesn’t seem to think it even needs to bother exploring just what it was about Eddie that made him so appealing to sports fans all over the world. Eddie the Eagle keeps insisting that Eddie is thoroughly charming, but that is a nebulous It I never felt. I felt only overweening schmaltz.


yellow light 2.5 stars

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Eddie the Eagle (2016)
US/Can release: Feb 26 2016
UK/Ire release: Mar 28 2016

MPAA: rated PG-13 for some suggestive material, partial nudity and smoking
BBFC: rated PG (mild sex references, mild bad language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Jurgan

    And here I thought this was sponsored by the NRA:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIEBrb_wRYc

  • Arthur

    The real Eddie seems a decent bloke. Speaking as a mediocre white guy, I’m chuffed.

  • phylos

    After reading this review, I went and made the right choice of reading the one for Brooklyn, a movie about literally nothing at all.

    Needless to say, I laughed a lot and I don’t ever need to read another review in this site: just the comparison between these two is enough.

  • Danielm80

    It’s touching, in a way, that you loved Eddie the Eagle enough to defend it online. But if you wanted to convince people to see it, you might have explained what you liked about the movie. Or you might have listed details you thought MaryAnn got wrong in her review. For example, if I wanted to refute your comment that Brooklyn is about “nothing at all,” I might say that it’s actually about a woman who—like many immigrants—is trying to create a home and an identity for herself, and about the painful sacrifices she has to make to do that.

    Instead of writing a convincing argument, you just posted a vaguely-worded insult. That tells us what kind of a…person you are.

  • phylos

    You make a lot of assumptions. Though I can’t say that surprises me from someone who would defend this site.
    I didn’t love Eddie the Eagle, I found it cloying and schmaltzy. About as clichéd as I found Brooklyn, for that matter. That’s one of the reasons why I brought that one up.
    I don’t care in the slightest what your interpretation about Brooklyn is: it doesn’t change that the plot, about as much as it has one anyway, is basically how the author of the book imagined their grandparents met, something that a far more interesting review pointed out. Also, the safety of it all, so much for sacrifices.
    And it’s hilarious that you have the audacity to think that your opinion has the authority to convince anyone of anything, though that also doesn’t surprise from a fan of this site, given what kind of site this one seems to be.
    I don’t have that audacity which is why I merely commented on the reviews… Which is what this comment section is for. Though, again, not surprised at your assumption that I wanted to convince you, anonymous stranger.
    Anyways, feel free to reply. Be sure I won’t reply back, it was annoying enough to come back here just to write this one… Which would probably just end up deleted. That wouldn’t surprise me either.

  • bronxbee

    the book “Brooklyn” is *not* the movie. how many times must this be reiterated?

  • The kind of site this one seems to be is one where the comments section is for intelligent discourse. If you are capable of that, you are welcome here.

  • RogerBW

    The old Lie: “You can be anything you want to be if you just try hard enough”.

  • It’s much more true for white men, though, than for everybody else.

  • That maybe true, and you’re allowed to have any opinion you want on if a film is good or not. But the fact you’re bringing it up (white male privilege) about a film based on a real life person seems completely irrelevant.

    Eddie the Eagle is a real man who managed to get himself to the Olympics in the 80’s. Why does race need to be brought into it?

    If it was a fictional character set in modern time, then your point would be valid. Yet ANOTHER tale of a while man overcoming a ‘struggle’. And I would agree with you.

    I saw this film at a special Q&A screening about 3 weeks ago with the director and the whole cinema was laughing from start to finish. Such a funny, family film with some very good morals and lessons to teach kids.

    Not only was he not very good at Ski Jumping, he was the sort of person who was bullied a lot growing up. This film teaches kids to just be yourself.

    I don’t see what the whole white male privilege has to do with this film.

    Don’t look for something that is not there.

  • Danielm80

    When you say, “You’re allowed to have any opinion you want,” it undercuts your argument. People may wonder if you were dim-witted enough to think that was in question. (Would you say, “You’re allowed to have food and clothing”?) It almost sounds like you’re searching for a loophole to prevent her from holding that opinion.

    Another thing that undercuts your argument is your apparent belief that white men were struggling more in 1988 than they are today.

    You might also remember the old truism: White men don’t notice their privilege for the same reason a fish doesn’t notice water.

  • Bluejay

    Read her review again. Which part of “I stress again that this movie bears little resemblance to the real Eddie’s real story” did you miss? She DOES distinguish between the real man and the character as presented in the film. The Eddie of the film is fictionalized to be a more mediocre character who faces more obstacles, so the film IS telling a fictionalized “inspirational mediocre white man” story. Her criticism is valid.

  • Haha! Completely missing the point of my argument. You only quoted part of what I said…

    “You’re allowed to have any opinion you want on if a film is good or not.” Which is true. This is a film review and people are entitled to pass praise or criticism on the film in question.

    My point about it set in the 80s also has nothing to do with white men having it more tough. Of course they never did. White men have NEVER had it tough. I was merely pointing out that it was a was a true story set in the 80s. You too are falling foul of trying to find something that is not there.

    If you read my whole comment again, you will see that I completely agree that there is white male privilege in the world. Of course there is. Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant or blind. My argument is that this is just a family film and maybe it should be treated that way and not look for that particular reason to hate on it.

  • And my point is, why does she need to say “inspirational mediocre WHITE man”. What is wrong with just saying “inspirational mediocre man”?

    Are we not at the point yet where we do not have to distinguish between races?

    As you would have read in my comment, I am fully aware of white male privilege. I’d be ignorant to think otherwise. White men have it easy, no argument there.

    I just don’t feel that argument needed to be made in this film review.

  • Danielm80

    *Headdesk*

  • Haha! Sorry. I can have that effect on people.

    If it’s any consolation, I don’t really care.

  • Danielm80
  • Bluejay

    The story fits the larger pattern in which a lot of stories ARE about mediocre white men. Why do you want to take away a characteristic that’s so clearly part of the pattern? Especially when you’re willing to admit that the pattern exists?

  • Ok well clearly I understand the sarcasm in that, I’m not a complete idiot!

    Have you actually read any of my points where I say I am fully aware of white male privilege? I just did not see it or even think about it when watching the film.

    Being a white man, I also see the irony in that.

  • Because I believe that a film made about a REAL man is not the problem. This is the point I am trying to make.

    If the film was about a made up person and a made up story (take Rocky for instance) then I would fully agree, just another tale about a white mans struggle.

    But this is a true (all be it fabricated for dramatic effect) story.

    Eddie the Eagle is national treasure here in the UK and I just found that specific point a bit irrelevant for a film based on a real person.

    Was the same argument made for the Johnny Cash biopic? Or the new Steve Jobs film? How about Im Not There, about Bob Dylan? Or the film about Ian Curtis? All biopics about white men struggling to achieve something… but the term white male privilege has never been used to describe those films.

    Why has THIS film in particular touched a nerve for the reviewer?

  • Bluejay

    Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the film. But based on MaryAnn’s review, it would seem that the film specifically distorts Eddie’s story SO THAT IT FITS a storytelling trope about mediocre white men somehow being deserving of praise. The biopics about Cash, Jobs, Dylan, and Zuckerberg did NOT portray them as talentless and mediocre.

    You do touch on a larger issue, which is that the stories of white men (mediocre or not) are told more often than other stories. Jobs, Dylan, etc, certainly have lives worth retelling on film, but the fact that they’re white men makes it easier for us to WANT to tell and consume those stories. (THAT’S part of white privilege, too: the assumption that the culture at large is going to be interested in your story.) There are plenty of women who have led fascinating and even historically significant lives, but whose stories are far less often told.

    http://www.flickfilosopher.com/2010/03/question-of-the-day-what-untold-stories-about-women-deserve-to-be-made-as-a-movie.html

  • Could not agree more. I was just using those examples as the subject at hand was white men.

    Personally speaking, if the story is about a white man… a black man, a black woman or black man, it doesn’t effect my wish to see it. What effects me is the story and the trailer. If it looks good, I will go and see it. I was lucky enough to grow up in a part of London where race was not an issue. In fact I was one of the few white people in my school. I am just used to be surrounded by all types of people so I never really see it as an issue, if that makes sense?

    Hollywood is SLOWLY catching up (although it shot itself in the foot with the recent Michael Jackson casting) with films like Suffragette (not sure why this story took so long to be told), Creed (fiction I know), Straight Outta Compton, Miles Ahead and Nina (all be it, dodgy casting and make up). There are so many stories to be told from so many cultures and races, I have faith that Hollywood will one day catch up with the rest of the World.

  • Bluejay

    films like Suffragette (not sure why this story took so long to be told)

    I’ll give you one guess. :-)

  • Bluejay

    You can find white male privilege in almost anything

    Because it’s there. (As you yourself just said, “Hollywood is whitewashed.”) Just because MaryAnn doesn’t point it out in EVERY movie doesn’t mean it’s not there — usually it just means there are other things to talk about, especially if it’s a good or interesting movie in other ways. When she DOES point it out, that means it’s a big enough factor in her perception to warrant mention.

  • Danielm80

    I’d like to see a movie about Caroline Paul, who qualified for the Olympics based on the same sort of technicalities that Eddie used. She didn’t end up competing, because she had more interesting things to do, like fighting fires and working as a journalist.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caroline_Paul

    When she signed up for one sports team, the coach told her, bluntly, “NO GIRLS.” She writes about it in her new book, which is terrific.

  • Bluejay

    Wow. That’s a fantastic Wikipedia entry. I’m going to check out her books.

  • Race is not irrelevant at all. Mediocre black men don’t get celebrated. They certainly don’t get movies made about them.

  • I don’t know if this is a “family film,” but if it is, we certainly did not need yet another movie boosting the self-esteem of white boys. They get tons of that already, just in movies alone. Why don’t mediocre girls deserve their own cinematic heroes? Why don’r mediocre nonwhite people? They have families, too.

  • I just think if you start to say that about THAT film, you may as well say it for EVERY film.

    What the heck do you think my Where Are the Women? project has been doing?

  • why does she need to say “inspirational mediocre WHITE man”.

    Did you miss the bit where I was quoting someone?

    Are we not at the point yet where we do not have to distinguish between races?

    Are you deliberately channelling Stephen Colbert’s “I don’t see race” running motif? Do you realize that only white people have the privilege of pretending that race is no longer an issue?

  • Are you suggesting that Johnny Cash or Steve Jobs were *medicore*?

    Also too: take a look around here and see how damn much I complain about how movies are dominated by men’s stories.

  • Not that its an arguement, and there should definitely be more inspirational films about black men, but i find it interesting that Cool Runnings was set during the same Olympics that Eddie the Eagle was in.

    Have you seen Race? That was a pretty good film.

    As i have said in other comments on here, Hollywood are slowly starting to catch up with the rest of the World.

  • I have no idea. I have no idea who you are or what that project is, this is the first article/review of yours i have ever read. Stumbled across it on rotten tomatoes.

    You sounded a bit like Ron Burgandy there. Was almost a ‘Do you know who I am?’ moment.

  • Youre quite right, everyone deserves to have a film they can relate to. Again, thats not the point i was making. It just so happens that Eddie the Eagle is a very treasured celeb here in the UK and someone has decided to make a film about him. I dont see the harm in that.

    I also hope studios will give directers money to make similar types of films for other people who are not just white and male.

    If you have not seen it, i recomend a french film called Girlhood. Very good film.

  • I grew up on a council estate in north london and went to school where white people were the minority. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by all different cultures growing up. I guess this is why i see it a bit different. I honestly never saw race growing up because i was never surrounded by white people. So race for me was never an issue.

    I completly understand the white male privilage argument as you will have read by my other comments. I have never said racism does not exist, i merely said it did not have to be brought up regarding a this film.

    I apologise if i have said anything to offend you and I meant no harm.

  • Bluejay
  • LaSargenta

    Well, that’s pathetic. You’re here on her website, taking up metaphorical air on this thread and you haven’t read the “About” page nor even poked around. In the least.

    Bye Felicia.

  • Are you for real? You asked “Why don’t you say XYZ about every film?” when you don’t have any idea what I do actually say about lots of films?

  • You can stop getting annoyed now, its ok. We were having a nice discussion but you dont seem to be able to have one without getting offended or taking it personally so i wont waste anymore of anyones time. You will never need to speak to me again which i am sure you will be happy about.

    When people decide to challange your opinions, dont take it personally and dont feel the need to attack them. We all have our own opinions and i respect yours. As you can see from my comments i never attacked you as a person, i just challanged your views on this review i stumbled upon. Bye bye.

  • CBBtheLakota

    It’s a shame your mediocre white boy father didn’t blow you on your mediocre white mother’s face.

  • Danielm80

    Shhh! If you tell mediocre white men they can’t do anything they put their minds to, they might feel threatened and start trolling the thread.

  • amanohyo

    Let’s take a deep breath and summarize:

    Person A : I did not like this movie because it tells a story I have heard too many times before in an uninteresting and insincere manner.

    Person B : Person A, I wish you never existed.

    Can you see how a reasonable person might suspect that some vital context was missing in this interaction? This type of hyperbolic vitriol is common on the internet – help me understand how what you typed makes any sense at all?

  • CBBtheLakota

    no, it was the color of the skin and the genitals of the subject of the movie that she didn’t like.

    it wasn’t the story.

  • amanohyo

    Maybe she considers the race and gender of the main character to be integral parts of the story?

    Can you swap the gender and race of the main character in a movie, leave everything else unchanged, and claim that you haven’t changed the story at all?

    It doesn’t seem like those aspects can be easily separated, but maybe you feel differently. Let’s say that they can for the sake of argument, then the conversation becomes:

    Person A: I did not like this movie because I feel that inspirational stories about mediocre white men are overrepresented in comparison to stories about extraordinary and interesting (and mediocre) women and/or people of color.

    Person B: Person A, I wish you never existed.

    There is still a disconnect. You obviously disagree strongly with something in the review. Did you find this movie genuinely inspirational? In what universe is it sensible to wish that a person who has a different opinion than yours about a movie never existed, even as a joke?

    She is not saying that mediocre white men shouldn’t exist or even that stories about mediocre white men shouldn’t exist, she’s saying that there are already a lot of movies that follow this pattern, and she’s tired of it.

  • Beautiful projection there.

  • Charming.

  • Jeff Yates

    Why don’t mediocre girls deserve their own cinematic heroes? Why don’r mediocre nonwhite people?

    They do. Granted they are in shorter supply than films that “boost[ing] the self-esteem of white boys” but they do exist. I’m sure you’re familiar with ‘Cool Runnings’. Coincidently an underdog story from the same Olympics as Eddie the Eagle … or ‘Fast Girls’ a similarly feelgood movie, this time surrounding girls’ athletics. All three films have merit and don’t deserve to be dismissed on the basis of the demographic of the protagonists.

  • *Cool Runnings* is almost 25 years ago. *Fast Girls* is not about mediocre women.

    don’t deserve to be dismissed on the basis of the demographic of the protagonists.

    Come back and say that again when the vast majority of movies are about, oh, Asian women, and you’ve just sat through the 187th one about a lovable loser who wins the day and gets the guy and has absolutely nothing else to say for itself.

  • TXTom

    A mediocre mind celebrating an extraordinary hate for men.

    This “critic” is badly in need for seeing a therapist. Her man-hating demons are taking control of her. Sad and pathetic.

  • Chareose

    Let me explain a few things to you ;
    1/ Whether or not Edwards was white, black or orange was almost certainly irrelevant to the producers of the film…. they are unlikely to be as obsessed with racial distinction as you are

    2/ He was a real person that millions remember well from the Calgary olympics…..this was a character who had a real impact because he didn’t fit in, was eccentric, was a complete amateur and yes the establishment didn’t want him to compete….. I also don’t think the film did him justice or intended to do him justice, that would have been too serious for them….

    It appears your beef stems from the perception that a load of white blokes from england decided to make something about a story that you view as boring and ordinary and impose it on you….
    erm well they didnt, they just made a feel good film about a man suffering from aspergers who caught the imaginations of millions back in the 80s
    *You dont have to watch it…….
    *millions in britain, canada, OZ will enjoy it because they remember the story and even if its not historically accurate or fair to the real man it still captures enough of his essence

    Get over it…………

    I appreciate that you went into detailed diatribe over the film and some of your points are valid but your headline deserves this response !!

  • Let me explain a few things to you ;

    Awww, how generous of you!

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