Fever Pitch

(A film discussion on Spring in January-February 1998)

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(Kate) I would say that the Brits (and us Aussies) swear much more in everyday life
Sorry. I wasn't clear. I don't think the swearing is unusual, just why is he swearing as if he's p***ed off when he sees Sarah? Nan, your opinion is that he didn't really want to give her a lift but did the gentlemanly thing. But then why was he just sitting in the car as if he was waiting for her? Was he delayed by fiddling around with the radio? Any other opinions on this earth-stopping question?

Karen, I like your analysis of the two scenes—the Bread scene and the house scene—and the two hugs. I never thought to compare them, but now I see Sarah is doing the hugging in the first one, he barely touches her, and he's the hugger in the second scene, kind of proprietary. Does show a slight evolvement in their relationship. (Also shows why I'd keep coming back to him too. Such a cutie.)

(Karen) Paul asks, did you win and she kind of snorts back "I don't think so."
And she gives him a cute little grin. Even though she's contemptuous of his shorts, she's still charmed by him.

Saddest Scene: I agree with Karen in this one. Lying to Mum. He looks so forlorn and then he gets up and goes into the bedroom. By the way, this is my favorite stubble scene too.

Pregnancy Theory. I think it had to be a combination of a bunch of stuff—the protecting the stomach at the match and comments made during their argument after the match. Like Karen, I want to know what "tick" means in this context. Maybe there's a clue. Also Sarah says something like, "what else is there for you to care about." It must have triggered something in his brain.

(Sylvia) the park-bench-scene: best intentions on Paul's side
So true. The only time I can think of that he actually goes after her.

(Nan-favorite lines) "Jesus Paul, you need medical help. You got some kind of disease that turns people into miserable bastards."
Good choice. I'm so busy looking at Colin, I forget how good Mark Strong was. (Took me awhile to recognize Mr. Knightly too.) Another good male relationship.

(Nan-favorite scenes) (3) "that was me being myself." (5) Sarah...realizing that her students do appreciate her. (6) Paul holding the baby.
IMO #3 is a pretty important line in a great scene. We had to see she had some kind of humor or how else would they ever have been able to get along? #5-how does she show her appreciation of their gift? By leaving it behind when she runs off to find Paul? I had to laugh at this one. Maybe she just had deep pockets. #6-delicious scene.

(Karen) The falling onto the bed scene (OK, no actual kissing, but he doesn't look any better than that!) and then in the coffee scene, look at him as he puts his shoulder into it
Ooh, Karen, you describe it so well. Putting the shoulder into it, indeed.

(Karen) Why do you think "Iron Knickers" Hughes told him he could stay the night?
I think it was just the realization that he's here, the flatmate's away, he's looking really good, the devil got her tongue and it came out before she could stop it. Then there are those horrible moments when he doesn't say anything, doesn't even look at her. I'm sure she had no intention of sleeping with him when she asked him up for coffee and Paul had no idea he was going to be propositioned.

Least Favorite Scene: This one always makes me squirm— during his head-of-year interview. He's an adult here and trying hard to show he's responsible but that worm won't let him show he's got the right stuff. I fast forward over this scene sometimes.

Darcy Looks/Mannerisms: In the faculty room when Sarah says "I was the naive new teacher and you were the cynical old hand." P: "What?" To me it sounded like his famous "What?" to Caroline but of course here he was completely in the dark as to what Sarah was talking about. Also, when Sarah tells him he can stay the night. We see his face, though she can't. Finally he turns around to her and then looks away. It reminded me of the first proposal scene when he realizes why Lizzy won't marry him. "Then this is your opinion of me." Finally, I know the young Paul walking in his platform shoes and wearing his Arsenal scarf reminded Karen of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, but I think the kid was studying Darcy's walk 'cause that's what it reminded me of.

Arami, your explanation of why Paul swore when he saw Sarah walking in the rain is along the lines of what my neighbor thought—that he was waiting for her but would rather have heard the football results without her in the car. I think I'll go with this explanation.

(Karen) Why do you think "Iron Knickers" Hughes told him he could stay the night?
After my first viewing of FP, I thought it quite shocking and didn't understand—still don't. But if it were me, asking CF to stay the night, then who needs an excuse or a why.

Briefly, favourite scenes (almost all, but here's a selection):
(1) With the Headmaster when he mentions that Miss Hughes is pregnant
(2) In the car, when Arsenal win, "Ye-e-sss!
(3) In the car again, when Paul says "Maybe you should be more yourself." Love the grin.
(4) With Robert, when Paul tells him that he can't take him to Arsenal
(5) When they are looking round the house. Love how he gently embraces her.

(1) I love when she asks him to stay the night. Oh and the kiss, *sigh*!
(2) When Sarah tells Jo she owes her a new carpet or better yet, a new bed!
(3) Sarah tells Paul not on the carpet and he agrees with her! I love the look he gives!
(4) Paul's relationship with his students and his team. He really does make you want to jump up and play the game with him.
(5) Okay the Arsenal boxer shorts!
(6) Colin looking like an unmade bed! The best thing in the whole movie!
(7) Steve and Paul at the football game that Steve's bro is playing. Gotta love those archeologists?
(8) When Sarah asks what Paul is thinking and he says D.H. Lawrence. That tickled my funny bone. It has got to be one of his shortest novels! And then he says "Well I can't always say Arsenal can I?" Too funny!

Now I know this movie takes place during the '80s, but the movie art gives them distinctively '90s looking clothes and haircuts.

You have all mentioned the best "looks" and I agree with them all but there is one that no one has mentioned and it is my favourite. At the end where Paul turns and sees the baby. I read that the baby was director David Evans' daughter and that David wanted Colin to throw the little girl into the air. (How like a man! I wonder what her mother thought!) Colin was apparently less than keen to do this and apparently there were a lot of takes with the baby getting ever more fractious. If you look at Colin's face just as he turns round and sees the baby, he has a wonderful, pleading look on his face. It is pure Colin and not at all like Paul. It was obviously take number 35 and he was trying to engage the baby's attention so that she wouldn't cry. I love it.

I read this in a review and thought it would generate some good opinions. I'll go firth: 

Is Paul an immature berk or a charming obsessive?
While there is ample evidence that Evans wanted to emphasize the "fan"-atical side of Paul, I tend to look at him more as someone whose emotional maturity has not progressed one day beyond the one in the car with his dad, when he says that they will never get beyond that stage. You see it in how well he relates to children. Of course, he relates well to them because he's at the same psychological age or thereabouts. Remember what he told Robert's mother at the parent-teacher conference, i.e., he doubted that Robert would care whether she knew anything about football when she took him. He is setting up the same relationship he had with his mother for Robert and his mother. Paul's mother was only useful in getting him tickets.

Paul's relationship with Sarah is equally immature, some of which is due to the fact that he comes from a broken family. Do we ever hear them talking about anything except Arsenal—even in bed? When she interjects reality, he always goes back to the comfort of his football team, whatever the topic. I like when he says he has better things to do than worry about mundane topics facing all of us everyday people, but then I question: what are they? Replay fantasy match-ups with Steve?

It takes Paul some time to understand that "yes, there is life outside of football." When he is talking to Steve before the Norwich game, he is starting to understand that other things can fill one's life and the team will go on.

Anybody care to comment or is this too serious for our purposes?

(Arami) That, in a nutshell, is the sad but understandable reason why this film was deemed not suitable for general release in the US
My very first reaction was it could never be released in the US. The sport and the slang were two strikes against general acceptance. While there are probably tons of soccer fans here and kids now play soccer more than any other sport, this isn't a movie for kiddies. I don't know too many kiddies who like romantic comedies, which this film is more, than a sports film. The slang is difficult to understand, but at least we didn't have to deal with a Sheffield accent on top of everything like The Full Monty. Who could understand 3/4 of the dialogue in that one! It's all marketing. The more I see of FP, it could have been done. Women would have flocked to it. We too have our sports widows— different sports—but the same obsession.

(Arami) Oh, to tick means to mark with a V to denote correctness, check items on a list
We use it in that way as well. But why would that upset her so much and cause him to apologize? We all know she is inordinately organized and compartmentalized and she admits as much (the file folders). Perhaps he is saying she lacks real passion because real passion can't be ticked off a list let alone put on one.

(Heide) the house scene—and the two hugs. He's the hugger in the second scene, kind of proprietary. Does show a slight evolvement in their relationship.
Yes, some evolution but he still wants to live on the Gunners' doorsteps. From homo erectus to homo habilus. Definitely the cutie in this one.

(Heide) how does she show her appreciation of their gift? By leaving it behind when she runs off to find Paul? I had to laugh at this one. Maybe she just had deep pockets.
She must have had money in those deep pockets as well because she didn't have a purse and how was she to pay for the cab. When will these film makers understand that they have an intelligent audience out there!

(Heide) This one always makes me squirm—during his head-of-year interview.
How can you fast forward over this one? I just love the faces Stephen Rea makes!

Oh, yes, that reminds me, what are the "pastoral" things teachers do? Sounds like they are herding a bunch of sheep!

Immature jerk vs. charming obsessive
Immature, yes. Jerk, no way! Charming, absolutely. Obsessive, granted. Yeah, he was a jerk sometimes, mostly in the scene you mention, Karen, when they're in bed talking about fixture lists. I'm surprised Sarah was able to keep her cool. I prefer to call him a charming obsessive, though. He needed something permanent to fix on at a time in his life when he was introduced to Arsenal and it stuck. Everyone likes him. He's happy-go-lucky (except when Arsenal loses), gets by on charm and good humor. Probably nothing bad has ever happened in his life. Would he handle a tragedy in his life in an immature way if he was forced to see what really matters? He has had to grow up in some respects but he reluctantly dons his professional, adult self only when needed, e.g., interview for head-of-year. Real life only creeps into his life when Sarah gets pregnant. He doesn't deny responsibility or ignore it. He's just not realistic about it. He can't balance it with his preoccupation with Arsenal but he tries. Maturity points for trying? Absolutely.

Which brings me to what I like most about Paul. In other words, if you were Sarah, why would you love him? For me, aside from his obvious good looks and humor, it's because he is so honest and straightforward. There is no pretense at all about him. Even in the Lady Chatterley scene, he confesses right away. What you see is what you get.

Allison, I love your thoughts on the look Colin had on his face when he's holding the baby. How sweet to think that face was being made solely for the baby's attention and pleasure rather than for the camera.

(Nan) The flowers that the Arsenal players carry on the field 
Wasn't it some kind of a tribute to the Hillsborough tragedy? 

(Karen) what are the "pastoral" things teachers do? 
My dictionary defines it as a responsibility for the general well-being of pupils.

(Karen) He is setting up the same relationship he had with his mother for Robert and his mother.
Paul does try to talk about the work, but Robert's mother brings up Arsenal. He gives into that conversation because a sports fan can almost never resist sharing his enthusiasm with someone who'll listen. Or, perhaps he felt it was the best way to help Paul through a situation he remembered from his own childhood. Also, he encourages Robert's mother to go with him, whereas he just left his own mother home. Perhaps I'm giving Paul too much credit but I really thought the purpose of that scene was to show the difference between Paul and Sarah as teachers. Meaning that Paul (who has genuine affection for his students) realizes that things happen outside the classroom that can affect a student's happiness in the classroom. Whereas Sarah (who sticks to the rules, but doesn't care if her students are happy) has no success connecting to the parents.

(Karen) The slang is difficult to understand...like The Full Monty. Who could understand 3/4 of the dialogue in that one! It's all marketing.
You're right. I missed a lot of that movie. But what I did catch was very funny. I'm sure that a good part of the success of TFM was the marketing, no doubt about it. However, TFM has a more universally appealing subject matter. Everyone understands men taking their clothes off, but if you don't understand the sport, you miss half the jokes. Then again, I suppose you could say that you feel just like Sarah as you watch it.

(Karen) Women would have flocked to it. We too have our sports widows...the same obsession.
Okay, take Bull Durham. It was a very successful film in the US, but how did it do everywhere else? I don't care what anyone says—regardless of it being about baseball, it's a chick flick. Women went to see that because of Kevin Costner. So, yes, I think it could be done theoretically. However, Colin isn't as popular as Kevin Costner in the US. I imagine Kevin is not as popular as Colin in the UK. When you choose to do a film about a sport whose popularity is regional, you can't really expect to successfully crossover.

So, to answer Karen's question (immature jerk vs. charming obsessive): I think he's both. Immature, most definitely. Can't get away from that one. A jerk, yes he has his moments (as we all do, so we'll forgive him ;-p) Charming? Yes, he can be when he's not distracted by a game. The problem is that he's almost always distracted.

(Heide) If you were Sarah, why would you love him? For me...it's because he is so honest and straightforward. There is no pretense at all about him...What you see is what you get.
Ah, yes, another good, wholesome, child-like quality. Honesty. But if it weren't Colin, would you really like Paul enough to want to marry him? I've grown to like that character quite a bit, but honestly I don't think he's the kind of man I'd want to marry. Well, that's not really a fair statement, because there is some improvement at the end. Overall, I like Paul, but it took me a long time. In the real world the relationship would have been over before I decided that I liked him.

Another thing, I still can't figure out how they got together to begin with. The whole thing happened so fast. As Karen mentioned, they never talk about anything but Arsenal, so what did Sarah fall in love with? His looks? His...er, bedside manner? What? If that is the case, then it is not a relationship that will last because sex dies. In the end there has to be some fundamental compatibility. Truthfully, they strike me as the kind of couple that would have great sex, great fights and a messy divorce.

I remember reading [the baby anecdote] and thinking that he (Colin, not the baby!) sounded, as ever, like a real sweetie pie. :-) He was very nervous about throwing the baby in the air (sensible bloke) and preferred to jiggle him up and down.

What was that quote: "the vulnerable little boy in a man's body." It's the vulnerability in Colin that always appeals to me (well, and the man's body, too!). That's why he can play the role of Paul so convincingly. And I love the scuffy, untucked in look.

(Nan) I still can't figure out how they got together to begin with. The whole thing happened so fast.
I agree. They got together so fast, the months flew by until April and then the pregnancy bit came up. Also what made Sarah fall in love with him? Never in the film do either of them use the word "love" except once when Paul and Sarah are up late in their respective flats after their argument. Paul does a voiceover saying "Football's meant too much to me. I've asked too much of the people I love." However, having the Wendy Complex myself, I'm sure I would love him, obsession and all.

Can this marriage be saved? In this world, hard to believe. And can we really believe Paul at the end when he says his relationship with Arsenal changed when they won the championship?

More Favorite Lines: When they are in the car after the parent-teacher conference and she asks him where he lives and he answers Arsenal, her reply is priceless. She asks "in the stadium or nearby?" and he gives her an exasperated look. It's like he's thinking, "oh yeah, another yob crack."

(Heide) Still he's given up an afternoon of watching football to go house hunting with her.
I never caught that before! Heide, you amaze me. He gave up watching a game—even an away game from the looks of the streets—seems so out of character. I just always thought that it was just some sports commentary that he was perpetually listening to. Incredible that he would do that.

(Heide) Why doesn't she ever have the key to his flat?
It's not like he really thinks they have a serious relationship. As they discuss in bed, Sarah considers it a "miracle" if they make plans for the weekend before Friday afternoon and they've been seeing, no sleeping together for six months! And then the cruelest insult of them all: He may not even be seeing her next season and it would be her fault!

(Jana) His character is very intelligent (quite deep)
How? We hear little if anything about other subjects except Arsenal. The little bits we hear when he is in teacher mode don't exactly lead me to that conclusion. Jana, are you referring to the insights in the voiceovers?

(Heide) Does he want to take Sarah home or not?
Why would he? Yes, they've noticed each other but, as Paul says to Steve when they are watching his brother play:
(a) She hates me
(b) I hate her and
(c) What's the point of all that. It's a waste of f***ing time.

But then again, Steve's reply is great, "Sounds promising, then." I'd have to go with purely coincidental and not wanting to be accused of any more uncouth behavior.

Immature Jerk vs. Charming Obsessive
Sorry, guys, it's "berk" not "jerk." More Brit slang! I believe a berk is more like an idiot.

(Heide) Everyone likes him.
That is until they experience his shortcomings in the area of maturity. Look how disappointed Ted is in him. How he's misjudged Paul's abilities. Yes, he's popular, fun-loving, devoted to his coaching responsibilities but he hardly takes his teaching all that seriously. The meaningful feedback he gives to Robert's mother—something about penmanship. Remember when Robert wants to go with him to the game and he says that on Saturday he's not a "responsible adult." Is he ever?

(Heide) Would he handle a tragedy in his life in an immature way if he was forced to see what really matters?
See restaurant scene. See napkin burning.

(Heide) There is no pretense at all about him...in the Lady Chatterley scene, he confesses right away.
Children often are guileless. But yes, I did like how he fesses up. So adorable in his guilt.

(Nan) Well, Paul does try to talk about the work, but Robert's mother brings up Arsenal.
He makes some crack about how bad Robert's penmanship is. When his mother says that Robert's always going on about him, doesn't he make a self-deprecating crack about his infectious enthusiasm for Steinbeck's prose style. Doesn't Paul bring up Arsenal, by asking her if she knows what happened after the last practice?

(Nan) he encourages Robert's mother to go with him, whereas he just left his own mother home.
Paul went with his dad until he decided he was old enough to go by himself. His mother wasn't necessary. (BTW, notice how they only talk about Arsenal at home with his mother and sister.) Paul already knows that Mrs. Parker won't let him go unless he is accompanied by a "responsible adult."

(Nan) so what did Sarah fall in love with?...In the end there has to be some fundamental compatibility.
When she is having a drink and smoking a cigarette with Jo, she says, with general acceptance on her face: "I know Paul's gone completely mad, I know, I know, I know. It just kind of rubs off on you some how."

One of those "opposites attract" things? No. Early on, when she and Jo are discussing the new teacher (shagging discussion) and Jo is pointing out the pros of a purely physical relationship, Sarah replies, "I want a brain as well...eventually." Maybe she has discovered that he has one as well. Maybe the discovery was left on the cutting room floor?

(Heide) Never in the film do either of them use the word "love" except once...after their argument. Paul does a voiceover..."I've asked too much of the people I love."
The voiceover you've cited is especially critical. I find it interesting that he even acknowledges that there are people that he loves. Who are these people? But toward the end of the narration, as the camera moves into her flat, he says "But every now and then, not very often, but it happens, you catch a glimpse of a world that doesn't work like that...and some stuff that just won't go away. Some stuff that you couldn't ignore if you wanted to."

This is responsibility for a child, not love that he's referring to here. He can accept the responsibility, but I've heard nothing about love.

At the restaurant, he can't articulate love for her. He tosses it in as if it were understood. His opening lines are classic: "It's come just at the right time for me. I was getting bored with the life at the pub and football stuff. You can only spend so much time playing subbuteo. It's time to move on."

(Heide) can we really believe Paul when he says his relationship with Arsenal changed when they won the championship?
I was happy that his growth toward semi-adulthood was slow. That he didn't wake up one morning fully understanding life and all that. The little insights he has (which Steve doesn't understand) and that he doesn't share with Sarah on screen give me hope that he has found a more healthy balance between his team fascination and real life.

Finally, does anyone think that the choice of Of Mice and Men was an accident? Remember, the little bloke shot the big bloke (the big child-like Lennie).

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