What, then, is “the truth”?
Such philosophical diversions crossed my mind as Eddie The Eagle slid towards its predictable, if satisfying, conclusion with the accidental hero greeted by hundreds on his return to England and embraced around the world as a man of great courage and determination, if not great skills and success. Because what we see in Dexter Fletcher’s feelgood movie is not a succession of scenes that “happened” building to a History Of Mr Folly, but a more holistic truth about spirit, about heart and about the consolation one can find in participating rather than winning – which is the fate of almost all of us after all. It does its job well.
Tarun Egerton follows up his role in the almost unwatchable Kingsmen with the much greater challenge of portraying our hero, a turn he pulls off with great aplomb. Though Eddie was not as hapless a sportsman as written here: in fact, he was gifted in a number of sports – how else could he even have reached the level he did as a skier, never mind landed jumps off the 70m hill after so little practice? Egerton moves and looks an athlete, so the potential to be competent is never in doubt for all his rustic technique. Though consistently rejected by the blazers, Egerton refuses to play Eddie as a victim, literally jutting his chin out and standing tall, a shy, but articulate man, full of plain-speaking humility. It’s a considerable acting feat to stay just the right side of caricature.
Hugh Jackman’s Coach Peary is a caricature, but ol’ Wolverine has charisma to burn and goes through the motions as the man who coulda been a contender pleasingly enough. (Though the less said about Christopher Walken’s walk-on cameo at the end the better). Jackman is a deus ex machina (there was no coach, at least not this kind) but, with the film making no pretentions to documentary status, why not?
Best of the rest in a cast not required to do much more than play out types with whom we can be comfortable, are the two women in Eddie’s life, his mother, Jo Hartley delivering a rare underplayed performance in a movie that doesn’t leave much unsaid, and Iris Berben, who has much of Nigella Lawson’s er… presence as Petra, the bar owner who takes Eddie under her wing.
(There’s a clever little nod to Cool Runnings in one scene and (I hope) a nod too towards another hapless trier, Richard Dunn, the Bradford boxer who traded punches with Muhammad Ali. And was Tim McInnerny styled to look like Giles Clarke, former Chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board, the sports administrator who features in the film Death of a Gentleman? Maybe it was a coincidence).
Try though I did to be cynical (with incidental music is well up the John Lewis Christmas Advert scale when it comes to enhancing the sentimentality, you feel the cynicism welling up), I couldn’t quite manage it. I knew I was being manipulated, I knew that things weren’t quite like that, but I knew that Eddie walked the walk (or, rather, jumped the jump) and that alone took real cojones, never mind his struggle to get the chance to stand at the top of that hill in Calgary. I also knew what you saw was what you got from the flying plasterer – and that, ultimately, is also the case for the film. It’s no Raging Bull, but if you slide alongside, it will, like Eddie himself, make you that little bit happier with the world. And that’s no bad thing.