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Case Number 03615

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Fever Pitch (1997)

Trimark // 1997 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Erin Boland (Retired) // November 22nd, 2003

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Fever Pitch (2005) (published September 13th, 2005) and Fever Pitch (1997) (Blu-ray) (published April 21st, 2014) are also available.

The Charge

"Not on the carpet. I can't afford it."
—Sarah (Ruth Gemmell)

Opening Statement

When I saw the keep case for Fever Pitch, I definitely groaned. I honestly did not think I would enjoy the movie. (Okay really, how often do girls appreciate movies that have mostly naked chicks on their cover?) It turned out that the cover art was completely misleading. Not only did the film pleasantly surprise me, I actually enjoyed it. And not just because Colin Firth starred in it either.

Facts of the Case

Fever Pitch is a love story told by a guy. Paul (Colin Firth, Bridget Jones's Diary) is a middle-aged English teacher. He is sexy and intelligent. He has read D.H. Lawrence and Lord Byron, and he only thinks about football (soccer): Arsenal (his favorite team) to be exact. Sarah (Ruth Gemmell) is professional, proper, and pretty. She also thinks Paul is obsessive and insane and the chanting and cheering coming from his classroom interrupts her perfectly planned lessons. The two start a relationship as turbulent as the football seasons that constitute Paul's life…and then Sarah becomes pregnant. Paul decides they could get married, buy a house, he could find a better job…and Sarah tells him he's nuts. Interspersed in the relationship and the couple's road to understanding and happiness are flashbacks of Paul's childhood and early adult life, all of which are deeply tied to Arsenal games.

The Evidence

Fever Pitch is Bridget Jones's Diary for men. (Okay, so the girls I watched it with liked it too.) On the outside, it looks like a "Martian meets Venutian"-women-really-don't-understand-men-and-men-sure-as-hell-don't-understand-women story. This couldn't be farther from the truth. The story in Fever Pitch, from the novel by Nick Hornby, follows a recent trend in popular literature: ordinary people living not so ordinary lives. On the surface, the film is a cute romantic comedy about two very different and very ordinary people. Underneath, the film is a close examination of Paul, his behavior, his fanaticism, and his identity.

Unlike the traditional romantic comedy ("chick flick") where a female is the main sympathetic character, Fever Pitch centers on a man. We follow Paul both growing up from about the age of ten when his parents separated, and during his adult relationship with Sarah. We become intimately familiar with his obsession and fanaticism with Arsenal, the football club to which Paul's identity is deeply rooted. When they were doing well, he had high points in his life; when they were not doing well, he had low points and suffered from depression. The film seems to explain this relationship with Arsenal as something Paul grew into because he desired a relationship with his father. From the onset, his father took him to Arsenal games as a special treat and prompted him with "if you're going to be an Arsenal fan…" It is no wonder that Paul grew into an adult who couldn't separate his life from Arsenal's performance. His identity was defined by being "an Arsenal fan." When Sarah challenged his devotion to Arsenal, she challenged his identity, and problems ensued.

The story does even provide a self-commentary on the ridiculousness of sports fanaticism. At one of the Arsenal games that Paul and Sarah attend, a riot occurs where another fan is trampled to death. After seeing this on the news after the game, Sarah assumes Paul will give up his obsessive fanaticism. He tells her she is wrong; no matter what happens, he will continue going to the games. He, as a fan, is as much a part of the football match as the players on the teams. They need him to be there as much as he needs to be there. We the audience can see that this is a little ridiculous and Sarah sees that it's a little ridiculous. We just need to wait for Paul to come around.

The performances in the film were excellent. Ruth Gemmell is very convincing of her properness, enough to the point that her sex life appears to be strictly by the book. [Editor's Note: And one can only assume that that book is not the Kama Sutra.] Colin Firth plays an excellent sports fanatic. He is tousled and rumpled and very good-looking. (Again with that Colin Firth thing…damn!) And although both Ruth and Colin are playing stiff British characters, they do manage some convincing chemistry.

The DVD transfer was fairly good. Only an overly critical eye would notice signs of compression. The film quality itself was excellent. Shots were very well composed, shadows were dark, and flesh tones were true. The sound quality of the film was also excellent with crisp and clear dialogue. The film was excellently soundtracked with hits from Van Morrison, the Pretenders, the Pogues, Fine Young Cannibals, and The Who. With Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital Stereo Surround options, the audio track has quite a bit to offer.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The DVD of Fever Pitch offered nothing in the way of extras except the original theatrical trailer. I am of the personal opinion that a director's commentary or at least a lengthy interview with the director and actors is a must.

Closing Statement

Fever Pitch was more entertaining then I had imagined. I now have the book on order, and am adding it to my stack of "things to read when I get the chance." I would highly recommend this film to anyone who likes British comedy, romantic comedies, or sports movies. (Could be a good date movie too, eh?)

The Verdict

As a movie, Fever Pitch is free to go. As a DVD, it will be sentenced to imprisonment until Arsenal wins the next championship. (This could be eighteen years…)

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 10
Acting: 90
Story: 100
Judgment: 76

Perp Profile

Studio: Trimark
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Spanish
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies
• Sports

Distinguishing Marks

• Original Trailer


• IMDb

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