BR: Fever Pitch (1997)

January 4, 2015 | By


FeverPitch1997_BRFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Very Good

Label: Twilight Time

Region: All

Released:  March 11, 2014

Genre:  Comedy / Drama

Synopsis: Opposites attract and quarrel in Nich Hornby’s own adaptation of his best-selling novel in which a rabid sports fan falls for a fellow teacher.

Special Features:  Audio Commentary with producer Nick Redman and film historian Julie Kirgo / Isolated stereo music track / 4-page colour booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo / Limited to 3000 copies / Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment.





Most North Americans are likely familiar with the 2005 American remake of Fever Pitch which substituted baseball for soccer, but the original British version of Nick Hornby’s autobiographical novel (adapted by the author) is a unique animal that doesn’t really make a huge effort to smoothen or tone down the sports fanaticism of Paul (wavy, curly haired Colin Firth) nor the whys of his improbably union with fellow teacher Sarah (Ruth Gemmell).

Soccer fans may revel at the devotion paid to the beautiful game, but non-soccer and less obsessive sports fans in general may find Fever Pitch to be a little one-sided. Hornby’s script jumps between Paul’s childhood and youth when the boy discovers soccer one afternoon as an alternative activity to share with his divorced father, and once hooked, Paul becomes a loyal fan of the Arsenal Football Club, teaching the game in the daytime, listening to reports on radio in the car, watching the game on TV at home, and wearing his colours above and below the belt 24-7.

Why fellow teacher Sarah falls for him isn’t really clarified – it’s simply a case of opposites attracting – but they’re so ill-suited and have so little in common, the implausibility of their relationship becomes an issue early into their union. Paul can be charming, but he’s also a bit of a bulldog, and it’s sometimes baffling what specific aspects of Paul’s personality Sarah can and does enjoy; even with their shared animal attraction, there’s a sense their romance can and will run out of steam.

Like Hornby’s other filmed novel, High Fidelity (2000), Paul is another man-child, an adult who obsesses on something tied deeply to his youth and the moments that make him feel alive, if not energized, but there’s one great explosive scene that at least has the two lovers letting their mutual confusion loose and loud, challenging the plausibility of these attracted opposites, and sending them running in opposite directions.

Hornby’s plotting also follows a series of historic events in Arsenal’s history, grounding the story to a series of transformative eras, and using Paul as a mirror to that first moment when a sports fan feels all warm & fuzzy inside upon entering a stadium, and realizing this particular game was for them, and for life. Also woven into Paul’s story arc (or sorts) are tragic deaths in a stadium stampede, and the pivotal game where Arsenal wins the 1988-1989 season.

Fever Pitch is a beautifully produced film with great production design, locations, and décor & wardrobe evocative of a more tasteful 1980s, and it’s the first of Hornby’s novels to be adapted to film, after which came About a Boy (2002), and A Long Way Down (2014).

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray features a sparkling transfer and a really robust 5.1 sound mix (the period songs sound very warm), and among the extras are Julie Kirgo’s liner notes, and a commentary track with Kirgo and Nick Redman – both of whom share a particular affection for the film and the politics of the era. Redman helps us navigate through the complexities of British soccer clubs and Arsenal’s history, and the disc also includes an isolated stereo music track of Boo Hewerdine and Neil MacColl’s score.



© 2014 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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