A Comedy about the game of love.Serendipity. A happy coincidence. Life rarely affords such chance and when it does all the better. Imagine then making a film, a film about addiction to a sports team, a sports team that has failed to win any significant trophy in eighty six years. Then imagine that same team not only winning, but also having one of the all time greatest come backs of all time. For that is exactly what happened in the Farrelly brother's latest flick Fever Pitch. Somehow serendipity just doesn't seem a good enough word.
The Ferrelly's have a small cult niche all to themselves. With a series of gross out comedies that are neither that gross nor that funny, they are nevertheless hugely identifiable, instantly recognisable and eminently watchable. This latest effort is another Hollywood remake of the 1997 British film of the same name. Presumably to hide this fact the British release is called The Perfect Match, but nobody is being fooled. Fever Pitch was penned by noted author Nick Hornby; an autobiographical tale of his then obsession with Arsenal football club to the exclusion of all else, skilfully transferred to film by himself and David Evans. This film was relatively unknown to the American audience and was thus picked up for remake; substitute Boston for North London, maths teacher for English teacher, baseball for football, Boston Red Sox for Arsenal and 1989 for 2004. The screenplay was written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel who brought us such easy going fodder as Multiplicity (1996), A League of Their Own (1992), City Slickers (1991) and Parenthood (1989). Looking at that résumé you can imagine the sanitised treatment Hornby's word has been treated too. However with the Farrelly's attached there yet remains a little quirk, not least in their choice of leading characters, and of course the ever present serendipity without which this film might have fallen by the way side.
Ben Wrightman is a mathematics school teacher, a funny, charming guy with a 'slight' summer obsession, the Boston Red Sox baseball team. Lindsey Meeks is a successful business woman, driven in both her career and her regime. When the pair meet up serendipitously (there's that word again) at Lindsey's work while Ben is on a school outing with some of his charges there is a little spark of attraction. Both are initially reluctant to get together, Ben because he thinks she may be too 'out of his league' until challenged by one of his kids, Lindsey because he is not normally the type of guy she would see, until she is challenged by her friends. Their first date doesn't go well; Lindsey is suffering from food poisoning and being violently sick, Ben takes this opportunity to look after her, clean up the mess (includes the one and only 'Farrelly Moment' of the film and a very subtle one at that) eventually sleeping on her couch. This endears the pair together and over the winter their relationship blossoms. As the new baseball season starts their relationship seems stable enough, Lindsey agrees to and goes to the opening game where Ben, who owns season tickets inherited by his uncle, introduces her to his 'other' family, the fans. Lindsey plays the dutiful girlfriend, accompanying Ben to games, buying baseball books to learn about the game, even joining him on a trip to Toronto and thus watch some away matches too. However, Bens relentless pursuit of his team eventually take their toll, his actions do nothing but drive Lindsey away, he makes some bad choices, some very bad choices. When there is a personal tragedy between the pair, and then a scheduling conflict between a planned trip and the games force Lindsey to reconsider her part in the relationship. It takes Ben's eventual epiphany to see that it was his unwavering attitude that caused all the problems, before he decides to make the biggest sacrifice he has ever faced before the film closes on its inevitable conclusion.
Even before the film starts, you know exactly how it is going to end, like a thousand romantic comedies before it, there are a nice predictable set of steps one has to take before the closing credits, Fever Pitch has them all. It wears its emotional bagesge proudly on its sleeve and the Farrelly's aided by their Hollywood machine script somehow manage to hold the film together, we do end up caring about the characters, we are rooting for that closure, we need that feel good emotion, Fever Pitch has them all. A great deal of this rests in the casting of the two main leads. Drew Barrymore, as Lindsey, is an inspired choice; she maintains her cool executive business woman lead with enough of her girlish charm to melt the hearts of the most hardened cynics. Jim Fallon (a Saturday Night Live comic apparently, and not a good one at that, apparently) in his first big role has enough warm charm to win us over, he is given enough little scenes to win over the audience, girls and boys, and in his big emotional scene, he hits all the right notes giving a huge tug on the heart strings. The pair show enough on screen chemistry to make their relationship believable and I felt their arguments showed real passion. The supporting cast have little to do except make the leads look good and they all do that without a problem.
Finally, as everyone knows, during the filming of this picture the Boston Red Sox managed a terrific comeback to win the World Series; a fact that required a hasty rewrite and some guerrilla filming to incorporate it into the film. This serendipity is quite outstanding, because it can be realised as a metaphor for Ben and Lindsey's relationship, something that could not have been planned. It also raises the films awareness level and somehow grounds it in real events, since these are real events. Fever Pitch manages to become an evenly watchable film, an easy Sunday afternoon watch, which is incidentally how I saw it.
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