Best selling author Nick Hornby was responsible for the books About A Boy and High Fidelity, which have made it to the big screen and received reasonable box office success. Fever Pitch was his first book, which achieved huge sales in the UK and demanded to be made into a feature film. The story is drawn from Hornbyís personal life, well the love for Arsenal Football Club part is anyway, but it is equally a story of love and what compromises we are prepared to make for it.
The year is 1989 and Paul (Colin Firth) is a school teacher who has one passion in life Ė football. To quote the former Liverpool manager Bill Shankley, ĒSome people think football is a matter of life and death Ė itís much more important than thatĒ and Paul lives this philosophy for his beloved Arsenal. His obsession with Arsenal began after being dragged to a game in 1968 by his father, after which he became instantly addicted. As soon as he was old enough, and through some constant pestering of his mother, he was allowed to go to games on his own and has been a season ticket holder ever since. He also coaches the school football team, employing the famous offside salute that Arsenal was famous for in the late Ď80s when this film is set.
One day a new teacher begins working at his school. Sarah (Ruth Gemmell) is a well-spoken, academic type who despises football and apparently despises Paul. They get off to a shaky start and are continually arguing, but try to maintain their professionalism. Sarah is jealous of Paul as he's popular with the kids, parents and fellow teachers alike, but she is struggling to fit in. Partly due to her jealousy and her deep down attraction to him, they continually criticise each other.
|"Iíve seen this film, you end up shagging on the carpet!"|
Beneath the hostile exterior they are both extremely attracted to each other and start dating. They have some fun, but the ever presence of Paulís beloved Arsenal in his life starts to take its toll. She is constantly having conversations with herself as Paul is dreaming of Arsenal and is frustrated that Paul plans his entire life around the fixtures for a season, going from August to May each year totally focussed on one thing.
This year though is more important than most. Arsenal hasnít won the League since 1971, when they claimed the title after beating local rivals Tottenham in the deciding game. So 18 years without a League title is just too much to bear and Paulís every waking moment is living the torment that comes with supporting a team that aspires to reach dizzy heights and usually falls short at the last hurdle. His relationship with Sarah is getting more serious, but the end of the season is pending. Paul has never had to worry about anything other than football before and now he needs to make a choice, he must choose between the woman he loves and the 11 men he worships.
Although Fever Pitch revolves around football and the lead character's love of the game, it can also be watched with pleasure by non football fans. The central focus of the film is the relationship between Paul and Sarah and how they handle the many obstacles faced. The biggest one for Sarah is, of course, Arsenal, but she also needs to make compromises for their pairing to work. Colin Firth is quite outstanding as Paul and Ruth Gemmell is also very well cast as Sarah. The supporting cast are also well suited with special mentions going to Luke Aikman as the young Paul and Mark Strong as Paulís best friend Steve.
To be fair I should state here that I am an Arsenal fan myself and have been since around 1978, so I can totally relate to this character. To relive the experience of the 1988/89 season and the build up to the title decider at Liverpoolís Anfield ground on the 26th of May is a night that will forever live in the memory of all Arsenal fans and football fans alike (well maybe not the Liverpool ones). To again see players such as David Rocastle, a very young Steve Bould, Michael Thomas and the goal machine Alan Smith is a real treat.
The attention to detail in this film is very impressive. With the film primarily set in 1989, there are many flashbacks to the Ď70s and for these scenes the hair styles and fashion are scarily accurate. The attention to detail is equally impressive for scenes set in 1989. From minor details such as current news events like the Hillsborough disaster to the fans wearing the correct replica shirts for that season. The home ground of Arsenal, Highbury Stadium, was used for much of the filming, but due to it now being an all-seater stadium there was a need for terracing so Craven Cottage, the home ground of Fulham, was used. Due to the Hillsborough disaster, all clubs in the top divisions in England had to become all-seater stadiums and for authenticity and an attempt to recreate the infamous North Bank terrace, genuine Arsenal fans were recruited to fill the Fulham terrace.
This film will give those that have never followed football a good insight into how consuming it can be. Colin Firth had never been to a game prior to making this film, but is now a Highbury regular. Arsenal have always been a big club, however now they have gone on to become the biggest rivals to Moanchester United (no that isnít a typo!) and they look like securing a consecutive League title this year, possibly the double as they are favourites to now win the FA Cup after beating Becks and Co. recently. There is also the Champions League to consider, but we donít want to get ahead of ourselves, do we? Sorry, but this is a good indication of the power that is football, you start off reviewing a film and so quickly get dragged into future fixtures! In closing I have to say that fans of football will enjoy this film, but those that do not follow football should also enjoy it. There is plenty of comedy and romance to keep most viewers entertained throughout.
Audio is supplied in a choice of English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround or DD 5.1 surround. Both are good, but the DD 5.1 track is the track of choice. The first notable item on the audio is the musical track, supporting the original score are some well known songs from artists such as The Pretenders, The Who, The Pogues, Lisa Stansfield, Fine Young Cannibals and Van Morrison. These songs are perfect for this film and really add to the era it is based in. The notable aspect with the songs is the volume that they come through at, they are much louder than the standard dialogue. They are not overbearing by any means, but they are noticeably louder. Surround use is extensive, particularly for music, but also for crowd noise and some directional effect. Audio synch is never a problem and the subwoofer gets only a little action but is not really missed.