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Case Number 27224: Small Claims Court

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Fever Pitch (1997) (Blu-ray)

Twilight Time // 1997 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 21st, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Naugle is still confused by the whole football vs. soccer thing.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Fever Pitch (1997) (published November 22nd, 2003) and Fever Pitch (2005) (published September 13th, 2005) are also available.

The Charge

Life gets complicated when you love one woman and worship eleven men.

The Case

Paul Ashworth (Colin Firth, Love Actually) is one of football's biggest fans. The popular team Arsenal is his favorite, and Paul supports them with a passion that could light up the sun itself. Working as a high school teacher in England, Paul is content with his life revolving around soccer and little else…until Sarah Hughes (Ruth Gemmell, TV's Silent Witness) walks into his life. Sarah is new to teaching at Paul's school, and although they are cool to each other at first, they quickly become lovers and more, which puts a strain on Paul's unwavering devotion to his team. Can Paul learn how to balance romance and fandom? Will Sarah be able to tolerate a man who gives more to a team of eleven men than he does to anyone else? Get ready for a love story that's about to reach Fever Pitch.

One of the hardest things I've tried to understand is the feverish passion for sports teams. I know a lot of people who are such big fans the Chicago Bears, Cubs, and Blackhawks that they spend their lives revolved around when they the games are on and when the playoffs are happening. They can recite scores, batting averages, and jersey numbers at the drop of a pin. When their team wins, they celebrate. When they lose, they're depressed for days on end as if their favorite pet just died. While the breadth of their knowledge and passion is impressive, it still baffles me how people can become so invested in something that bears little to no actual impact on their lives, no matter the game's outcome.

Fever Pitch is about an attempt to live a normal life while staying insanely loyal and focused on your one unbridled passion. For Paul Ashworth, that thing is football (or as we Americans know it, soccer), and it is his entire world. In fact, it's not a stretch to say that it means more than the world to him: It IS his world. Paul spends his time as a teacher but it's the Arsenal football team that engulfs his existence. When a fellow schoolteacher comes into his life in a romantic capacity, Paul suddenly has to deal with not only the idea of spending time away from his beloved team, but also spending time with a woman who has very little patience for organized sports. It's a conundrum that Paul never knew he'd have to face.

Directed by David Evans (who also helmed episodes of the popular TV series Downton Abbey), Fever Pitch is based on the best selling debut novel by writer Nick Hornby (whose books have been adapted into great films, from the warm and funny About a Boy to the under-appreciated High Fidelity), who also wrote the screenplay. The plot is loosely based his own life and experiences as a lifelong sports fan. Hornby's screenplay does a fine job of trying to understand both sides of the relationship coin: Paul's unwavering devotion to his team and Sarah's bafflement over why Paul loves Arsenal so much. The two characters come together through their work, and as their relationship progresses they must each come to terms with the other's passion (or lack thereof).

The two main actors in Fever Pitch give subtle but affecting performances as a couple of lovers trying to figure each other out. Colin Firth, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of King George VI in The King's Speech, plays Paul as a rumpled, live in teacher who seems content with his life around kids and footballers. Ruth Gemmell is the woman who tries to get Paul to grow up, although she has stretching of her own to do, all stuffy and uptight. The polar opposite characters make for an interesting screen couple, each displaying character traits that a lot of viewers will see in themselves. Film buffs will also recognize character actor Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) as Paul's lighthearted best friend, Steve. Strong has recently been known mostly for his villainous British roles, but Fever Pitch allow the intense actor an outlet to show off his softer and more likable side. Viewers will also want to keep an eye out for Stephen Rea (V for Vendetta) in a small but amusing role as one of the local school board members.

Twilight Time's Fever Pitch (Blu-ray) is presented in 1.78:1/1080p HD widescreen. The film, originally distributed by Universal Pictures, has an overall pleasing transfer that is clear and clean, if not overly exciting. Colors look bright while black levels are solid. The soundtrack is a mediocre DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix. While there are a nice moments—most notably during the pop song cues—this is a very front heavy track without much oomph.

Bonus features include an informative commentary track from Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, as well as an isolated score track. This Twilight Time release is limited to only 3,000 copies, so if you want it, my recommendation is to act fast.

Fever Pitch was popular enough to be turned into an underperforming American film of the same name starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. On some level, it speaks to any romantic attempting to traverse a world where their passions have to be combined with someone else's, which can be one of the most difficult lessons in love to learn. Firth and Gemmell give the film enough spark and warmth to lift Fever Pitch above most stock romantic comedies.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Worth checking out, even if you aren't a sports fan.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 87

Perp Profile

Studio: Twilight Time
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genres:
• Blu-ray
• Comedy
• Drama
• Foreign
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies
• Sports

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Isolated Score

Accomplices

• IMDb








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