11 July 2005

The Case for Fever Pitch

The Case for Fever Pitch:

After hearing many opinions on this movie "Fever Pitch", most from angry Red Sox fans, I am here today to present the case for Fever Pitch as a movie that straddles the line between chick flick and normal flick, that, in fact, carries more appeal for men than it does women. Before I present my case, however, I'd like to throw out a few facts about the movie itself. First, this movie is loosely based on a book by Nick Hornby, author of "High Fidelity", "About a Boy", and many others. If John Cusack's career had a personal author, it may well be this man. It has been my experience that he writes about the lives of men, usually as an omniscient narrator and sometimes in the first person, about their lives and their experiences. In doing so, he is assuming the role as a sort of spokesmen, as any author does, on a subject he knows well about, that would appeal to a similar audience. The book, "Fever Pitch", is about an Englishman who cannot seem to find a middle ground between loving his favorite football club, Arsenal, and the women in his life. The movie, "Fever Pitch", is about a Red Sox fan with a similar problem. NOT, and I want to make this clear, about a woman who falls in love with a man that has a Red Sox problem. The difference is subtle, yet pronounced.

Second: The movie was produced by the Farrelly brothers, the kings of late 90's grossout comedy: "Something About Mary" being the most notable. They are die-hard sports fans, their movies are peppered with cameos of famous Boston sports icons (including Roger Clemens, Tom Brady, Cam Neeley, etc) and even though their movies have taken on a softer tone, as recently as "Stuck on You", they are nowhere near signing up to direct something having to do with any sort of Ya-Ya Sisterhood. In addition to this, the movie was written by the formidable team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Their writing credits include "City Slickers", "Parenthood", the TV series "Happy Days" and the classic "Spies Like Us" (even a little "Joanie Loves Chachi"... but we won't hold that against them). They have made a name for themselves for writing smart, snappy dialogue with a tender edge, as demonstrated in the evidence listed above. Again, no Oprah specials, no "Tuck Everlasting" among them.

Before I begin my case for Fever Pitch, let me make the case against another movie: Summer Catch. This was a movie about a love story that takes place at the summertime Cape Cod leagues. Were it not bad enough that this was an unwatchable piece of garbage, this was the worst kind of masquerade perpetrated against the male gender. This, no doubt, is a chick flick hiding behind a baseball glove. It demonstrated no real knowledge of baseball, was sappy as hell and should have just been called "Dawson's Curveball." I'll let IMDB fill in the blanks about "Summer Crap" with their crack research staff:

Factual errors: When Ryan's buddies are keeping track of the number of strikeouts that he gets in the last game by posting the 'K' signs they mistakenly post the Ks backwards when batters swing at the third strike. The backwards K is the baseball scorekeeping symbol for a strikeout in which the batter does not swing at the third strike.

Enough about that garbage, now on to Fever Pitch. The first clue that this is not a chick flick is that the narrator of the movie is an old man who knew the main character since he was a boy. This is not how chick flicks start. But before that, the opening credits of the movie roll to shots of Boston, while "Dirty Water" by the Standells plays. That is the song that rocks the grounds of Fenway Park every time the Sox win a game. It is their anthem. If this were a chick flick... gosh, I don't even want to go down that road. Moving along...

Without dissecting every scene of the movie, I'll gloss over the finer points. My favorite clue about this movie's true intentions happens midway through the first act, when the couple have dated for a bit and mingle with their mutual friends at a party. After a few hours, the girls go upstairs to talk privately, and the men stay downstairs smoking cigars. While the women are upstairs (more on that in a second), the men are sitting around listening to Jimmy Fallon talk about how incredible it was to be at the 1999 All-Star Game when they wheeled Ted Williams onto the field. The men around him are moved, stunned, as Fallon speaks about watching grown men weep at the sight. This is a moment that can only be understood and made possible by those who know and love the game. The best part? The women are upstairs scheming and trying to ruin Drew Barrymore's good time by implying that Fallon must be a creep since he's still single. So you've got the ultimate love for the game in one room, and the image of women as catty bitches in the other. Can there be any more certain sign than this?

Perhaps. Was it when Drew and Fallon are fighting and Drew says (paraphrasing) "You'll only come up with another excuse not to go out with me because Pedro is pitching on Friday!" and Fallon replies "No no, Schilling's on Friday, Pedro on Saturday."? That was good. Or how about when Fallon's character goes into a tailspin and his friends find him slumped in his chair replaying Buckner's error over and over again? And as they prop him up, the first words out of his mouth are "It ain't his fault, Stanley screwed us by not covering the bag." Folks, this is NOT a chick flick.

Is this movie a romantic comedy? Yes, it is. Are there true estrogen moments buried within? Yes, of course. Make no mistake, this is a romantic comedy centered around a couple. But, like "When Harry Met Sally..." before it, I think that it does a pretty good job of playing to both sides, and is a great treat for any sports nut, with the way it understands the life of a Red Sox fan, the team's history, and everything that goes along with it. If you're a Red Sox fan, it's twice the fun. By no means was this my favorite movie of all time, and it is far from perfect, but I felt compelled to defend it against the denizens of sports fans and Sox fans that gave it such a bad rap... But if you just can't bear the sight of a guy and a girl kissing to a swelling overture of music, and you think that enjoying a movie like this somehow emasculates you... you're an idiot.

I rest my case.