Maybe it’s unfair, but I came away feeling cheated by “Eddie the Eagle.’’ It’s a jolly real-life tale about an underdog who made a splash at the 1988 Winter Olympics, and it does make you feel good, but it turns out that the film’s story is 90 percent fiction. Yes, there was a fellow known as Eddie the Eagle, and yes, he looked something like the fellow that plays him onscreen, and yes he was an Olympic ski jumper — but everything else is just made up.
Should this matter? Perhaps yes, perhaps no, but forget about should — it does matter, because it changes the experience. The filmmakers set out to make a movie about Eddie the Eagle, because he is an inspirational figure with a great story. Otherwise, why rescue him from the fringes of history? And so we watch and think, “Wow. Impressive. What a guy. Wasn’t that amazing?’’ And then we find out that no, they just took the name and a few details and changed everything else, including his history as a skier, his training, his personal relationships and even the details of his last Olympic jump.
Too bad, because the reality was interesting enough. Eddie Edwards was the last man cut from Britain’s downhill racing team. An experienced skier, he decided to train to be a ski jumper, because there were no British ski jumpers, and so it would be easier to qualify. His training had to be makeshift, because his family lacked money to back him, but he eventually traveled to Calgary, where he trained with two coaches and eventually made the team. At the Olympics, his exuberant spirit — his pure joy at being there — captured the imagination of the public, and he has remained a beloved figure in Britain ever since.
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