Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pitching a Fever
My ever-loving wife, usually immune from treacle and syrup, is a sucker for AT&T commercials. If one weedles its way into a tv program, I leap up with might & vigour, clasp my mitts around the nearest box of tissues, extract a handful, and dive onto the floor beneath her seat, the tissues pointing upwards toward the torrent of tears that will soon follow. There are enough water stains on our wooden floor where my inaction or slow action have been duly recorded. It's the human interaction thing that gets to her, especially between parent and child. She's a grandmother in the making (Kids! If you're reading this, I won't be ready to be a grandfather in, oh, 15 years, so no rush).

Fever Pitch, an across the Atlantic, Arsenal to Red Sox transformation movie has been playing the theaters recently. An AT&T relationship movie possibility. Relationships, sports sentimentality, the Red Sox curse. Oh the burden of tears! So, when Fever Pitch, with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon had a sneak preview 2 weeks ago, I begged off going. I didn't want to be sitting next to her plying her with 2 plyed tissues. I had visions of the SNL Bosox fans skit that Fallon & Rachel Dreitch do. Only, the 5 minutes that is somewhat funny is now an extended 80 minutes of a one joke act. Fever Pitch (the original) had a curly-haired Colin Firth as a stand-in for a not as curly Nick Hornby. Mr. Hornby wrote the screenplay for this 1987 film, based on his own book, Fever Pitch.
Mr. Hornby is also involved in the American version as an executive producer. The new movie has transformed an obsessed Arsenal football (i.e. soccer) fan into an.... obsessed Red Sox fan. I loved the book and I loved the original movie adaptation. Hornby & Firth both treated the Arsenal Obsession as an unfortunate malady that had no cure. There was no desire for the cure anyway; the Obsession was the strongest tie Hornby/Firth had with his father. I had dread in my heart about this new version of things; SNL does Hornby. Yipes. Sap & Sardonicism. Not my favorite combination.

I parted with my wife, telling her that I hoped she enjoyed the one-joke movie.
Oh course, I'm now dreading that comment and I'm eating it every chance my wife offers it up (like revenge, it is a meal served cold).

Last Sunday, I accompanied my ever-loving wife to the local multiplex. I watched, I smiled, I laughed. Fallon was without his self-indulging over-the-top persona here. Drew Barrymore was divine. Her "Friends" friends were not grating. And the Sox won. I was wrong (my ever-loving wife loves this phrase, well, as long as it's emanating from my mouth). It wasn't a 1 joke movie. It had its moments.

But, be forewarned, it has been Americanized. There is sweetening involved here. Fallon is no Firth, but this new version of the movie would not be a comfortable vehicle for Mr. Firth. Go see the American version. Then, rent the original DVD/VHS version. Two side of the same coin.

The book? Well, I'm assuming you already are off to the bookstore for that. Go on, get off your backside!

I've read the book and I can recommend it even to those readers who don't care much about soccer.
Before FP fame, Hornby used to write very funny articles in a British magazine called Arena. So much did I enjoy his writing that I subscribed to the mag (and very expensive it was). he had a tremendous story about visitng a massage parlour, describing himself in that intimate environment as somebody who "normally doesn't even take his coat off until after the third date." I always loved that line, it speaks volumes. Personally, I much prefer the man's non-fiction to his fiction and can also endorse this fine book.
Trivia note: Arsenal also wear red socks.
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