Fever Pitch

(A film discussion on Spring in February 1998)


[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6]

 
Heide:
Oh Karen, you're much too harsh on Paul. I agree that he acts like a big kid but I think he's perfectly able to act like an adult too, he just doesn't want to most of the time.

(Karen) Look how disappointed Ted is in him. How he's misjudged Paul's abilities.
I think Ted is only disappointed for a short time because of the pregnancy not because of Paul's lack of interest in expanding his teaching role. I think he knows exactly what Paul's abilities are and that's why he recommended he go for the head-of-year position. He also calls Paul personally to tell him he didn't get the job, so I take that as a sign that all wounds are healed.

(Karen) 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?
I think this is evidence that Paul can be a responsible adult. He simply doesn't want to be but knows, if Robert goes to the match with him, he will have to act like one. If he were just a big kid he'd take him along and not think about the consequences.

(Karen) Doesn't Paul bring up Arsenal, by asking her if she knows what happened after the last practice?
I took this to show that he was concerned about Robert's seeking him out as kind of a father figure and thought his mother should know. I guess you could argue though that Robert is seeking him out more as someone on his own level, rather than as an adult.

(Karen) Maybe she has discovered that he has one [brain] as well. Maybe the discovery was left on the cutting room floor?
Ouch, too cruel, Karen. I do agree with you on the love part, though, or the possible lack of it. It does make me fear for their future relationship. She doesn't use the word either.

Some dialog I can't understand: After Sarah confronts him on the field about telling Ted about the pregnancy, Paul seems to be exhorting his team to play more aggressively. He says "Come on you useless showers (?). This is a lot of crap. Come on, get stuck in (?)." Can anybody help?

Arami:
I still like this film and have warm, positive thoughts about the character of Paul. If they were heading for a divorce, it would be at least as much her fault as his. Love dies? How sad. I've been married for 23 years to a sweet and gentle man who loves soccer (OK, not as much as Paul, but nearly) and I don't think love dies. Not if you don't let it. (Yes, it wilts somewhat, but people can adjust to that.)

Shower = (Brit. slang) a contemptible or unpleasant person or group of people 

Get stuck in = begin in earnest

Nan:
(Karen) Paul went with his Dad until he decided he was old enough to go by himself.
No, he went with his father until his father got bored with it. Since he was so desperate to go, he finally had to talk his mother into allowing him to go alone.

(Karen) And can we really believe Paul at the end when he says his relationship with Arsenal changed when they won the championship?
No one changes overnight, I suppose. Though it would be nice to believe it.

(Karen) 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).
Oh, I think you're clutching here, honey ;-p

(Arami) Love dies? How sad...
No, I said sex dies. Big difference. Even the best and healthiest relationships have peaks and valleys (especially sexual ones). And you're right about love not dying if the relationship is based on something solid. I'm not trying to be funny here, but I'll bet you genuinely like your husband. Meaning that, even if you hadn't married him, you'd still have something in common, something to talk about, be able to enjoy each other's company in a platonic way. My point is that Paul and Sarah don't seem to have that (at least not what they show us). Of course, we could just ignore that and believe they lived happily ever after. I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

Renate:
I think in FP you have to read between the lines and keep in mind that Nick Hornby is a very ironic writer and that his book is about football obsession and not about love. He understated the "falling-in-love routine," IMO to avoid the cliché. And has at least one thing in common with Paul: not being very good at expressing emotions straightforwardly.

Favourite knee-trembler: Two of my favourites scenes were not yet mentioned. The "Mr. Ashworth, have you got a moment!" scene and "Wot?" In both he stands next to a door (but that's not the point) and smiles at her. She must have gotten weak knees, don't you think? I would.

Favourite "A's" and throaty sounds: I simply love the way he pronounces "(a) I hate her, (b) she hates me." (echo of Mr Darcy's" had I flattered you") Inimitable. Or how he spits out "poxy goal!" when talking to the headmaster watching the boys playing. Do you know what I am talking about? There was more but cannot remember right now. Oh, when will I ever know all his films by heart?

Laura:
I love when he is talking to Robert Parker's mom. That smile melts me all the time. Being a single mom, I too, would take the bloody traitor for 12 quid all the same.

I love Steve. When Paul tells him that he cannot and will not watch the Liverpool v. Arsenal game, Steve says fine go and Paul says come on and Steve says I'm bloody going nowhere. Paul whines ever so perfectly, "yeah, well this is my flat!"

Karen:
(Heide) I think he's perfectly able to act like an adult too, he just doesn't want to most of the time.
Yes, the big question: what is being an adult to Paul? All we do know, is that "adults aren't supposed to go mad about anything."

(Heide) Ted is only disappointed for a short time....he knows exactly what Paul's abilities are....He also calls Paul personally to tell him he didn't get the job...a sign that all wounds are healed.
When Ted asks him if he's interested in the job, Paul clearly shows his lack of ambition for taking on anything additional—he gets by with what he makes. Ted watches him cavort with the kids on the field and he still admires Paul's devotion to his kids and coaching. But I think Ted is really blown out of the water during the pregnancy discussion. I mean it is funny as all get out, but Ted is incredulous that Paul can't see the bad example he is setting.

P: I thought you'd be pleased? 
T: About which part? The clandestine affair? The accidental pregnancy?
P: Well, not those bits, maybe, about me applying for the job. That is good news. 
T: Are you a complete fool? 

I think Ted's disappointment is still evident when he comes into the classroom to tell him about the interview with the governors and again during the interview. I didn't take his calling Paul to tell him he didn't get the job as a sign of reconciliation, just courtesy.

(Karen) Maybe she has discovered that he has one [brain] as well. Maybe the discovery was left on the cutting room floor?
(Heide) Ouch, too cruel, Karen.
Cruel? I only meant that we are only allowed to see what they want us to see of him. It is apparent that other things do go on in their lives. I mean weren't you surprised to see them shopping together, that his mother knew about her, and he knew she had a sister.

(Nan) if FP wasn't a blockbuster hit there, why do you think that good marketing would help it be successful here?
The actual sport itself is secondary. We see very little of it and that was intentional. Everything I've seen written about this movie (including by Hornby) emphasizes it's a romantic comedy about when love with a woman comes between a man and his passion for a sports team. If someone were to ask me if this were a sports film, I'd say no. Is it easier to understand a Bull Durham or The Natural, Unnecessary Roughness, A League of Their Own, etc.? Of course.

(Nan) 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.
He did meet her requirements. He could and did quote Byron, but not the right Byron. He was capable of all that she required in addition to the physical attraction they had for each other.

(Karen) Finally, does anyone think that the choice of Of Mice and Men was an accident?
(Nan) Oh, I think you're clutching here, honey ;-p
I do believe that it was not at all coincidental that it is the book they are reading at the beginning. Now, it's been years since I've read the book, but what I remember is that Lennie who is learning impaired and very childlike doesn't know when his actions hurt others. The little bloke killing the big bloke business I meant metaphorically. The adult Paul needs to kill off his childlike side—to grow up. Nick Hornby was an English teacher; it is perfectly plausible to me. There's a ton of other foreshadowing going on during the initial scenes.

(Nan) My point is that Paul and Sarah don't seem to have that (at least not what they show us).
There is something there and I think it's difficult to nail down. Things she says to him keep him up all night. Opposites do attract. But do they stay together? Some do and some don't.

(Renate) that his book is about football obsession and not about love.
From what I've read, the book FP and the screenplay are totally different animals. The love story does not appear in the book. Hornby created it in the screenplay to show how Paul's life mirrors the ups and downs of the team. I believe I even read an article that Hornby wrote in which he admitted he played up the romantic angle and that's what the producers and directors wanted.

Heide:
Wow, I love all these different viewpoints. One thing I think we can all agree on is that we love Paul (a little "colin-ization" here) but if we knew him in real life he'd drive us insane. We also seem to agree that the future looks bleak for Sarah and Paul but maybe, just maybe, we can believe Paul when he says his relationship with Arsenal changed. Sounds as if everyone who has posted loves or at least likes this movie.

I found one review on Fever Pitch. The reviewer liked the book a whole lot and was disappointed that the film showed only one season just so they could depict Paul and Sarah's relationship. However, Colin's performance was a stand-out and he played Paul in a "wry and sardonic" manner.

Laura, glad you brought up Mr. Knightly, I mean Steve. Is he really an anthropologist? Hard to believe. I love Steve's comments to Paul during the championship match. And that Steve thinks he could still be playing football at age fifty and when Paul scoffs, Steve says, "Oh, because of the smoking." As if that's the only reason. Very good friendships on both sides. I like the little saucy look Jo gives Paul in the park when Sarah runs off. No one's mentioned the "Cracker" scene on the telly. That was intentional, was it not?

Best Use of Music: Like Jana, it's the Lisa Stansfield song. "I can't find my baby, I don't know when, I don't know why he has gone away and I don't know where he can be but I'M GONNA FIND HIM." 

Arami:
She is a modern, "liberated" woman—Ms, remember? (Distant echoes of Lizzy, perhaps? taken in the proper context, of course) We do not know anything else about her background, but it's not important.

He is a seemingly happy-go-lucky chap with no big responsibilities, semi-permanently withdrawn into the cosy shell of his childhood memories. (Forget the serious, decisive Mr Darcy.) Happily, his mummy loves him. His daddy has left him a legacy of passion for football. But look, he is from a broken home. Like any other kid, he longed to love and respect his father and football became the only link, the only cheerful, uplifting memory of his father's input in his growing up.

Has anyone stressed this point yet? Paul's obsession is not just a simple thing.

(From my own observation, this can be a traditional expression of family bonding. My husband and his brother support the same team as their father did. They used to go together. Now his brother's three sons are as passionate about the same team.)

There is no romance. She is not hunting for a husband. She almost cynically grabs at the opportunity for purely physical relationship. (Forget the Regency "cross your legs and wait till the wedding night" style of propriety.) He is surprised; he didn't think there was a chance, so soon, for an easy, convenient, uncomplicated, no strings attached shag.

The split condom has the pivotal role. (I am surprised that Durex didn't sue the film makers!) The unplanned pregnancy forces them onto a different level. She is not sure she wants to keep both the unborn baby and its childish father as her partner. He is trying to convince her—but himself even more—that he wants this commitment. They split up because she gives him no encouragement. When she feels a need to rejoin him (well, he's not so bad after all), she of course chooses the worst moment possible. I wasn't very happy about her wandering aimlessly and empty-handed around the streets until dark but was glad they found each other. I imagine that when he was surrounded by cheering people including families with children, he suddenly saw the other end of the spectrum. It was time to stop withdrawing into childhood memories and begin living an adult's life. But had it been a drama, they would probably look at each other and walk away in opposite directions.

Happily, the reality is not always as bad as that. Despite some logical and emotional shortcuts, I find the implication of a happy ending quite believable. I have seen some other modern, liberated females, hitched to totally unromantic men who have stayed together throughout years of good-humoured banter—not totally uninterrupted, of course, but more preferable than the emotional ups and downs of a volatile passion drama often ending in tears. When you start with too high expectations, there's usually only one way to go.

Lucie:
I loved the scene in the restaurant when he was trying to convince her that he was adult enough to handle fatherhood while he was fooling around with the napkin and set it on fire. After the waiter stomped it out, he gave her a silly grin and said "Oh that's just a one time thing." I almost fell off my chair laughing.

Nan:
(Renate) I think in FP you have to read between the lines, and keep in mind that Nick Hornby is a very ironic writer, and that his book is about football obsession and not about love.
Really? I haven't read the book. That makes a big difference.

(Laura) I love Steve.
Never much thought about Mark Strong, but I love the accent he uses—the way he drops his Hs, like Eliza Doolittle ;-)

(Karen) The actual sport itself is secondary.
I don't believe that. How can you expect an audience to relate to Paul (or rather, his obsession) if they don't understand it?

(Karen) We see very little of it and that was intentional.
But there are constant references to it. For example, the names and positions of players. Some of the jokes are lost on me, because I have no idea to whom they are referring.

(Arami) Like any other kid, he longed to love and respect his father and football became the only link, the only cheerful, uplifting memory of his father's input in his growing up...Paul's obsession is not just a simple thing.
It's a good point. I suppose the football obsession starts with the need to fill a void. What is that part of the narration? The one where Paul says something like, "you're part of a family"?

(Arami) From my own observation, this can be a traditional expression of family bonding.
Absolutely. I support the same hockey team as my father and sister. It makes perfect sense to me. Paul's father, I think, is not so passionate about the game as Paul—never was. He was just trying to find something different to do with his son. No truly devoted fan would leave a game before it's over, just to beat the crowd to the parking lot.

Laura:
I read the book FP and it's not a love story, unless you consider his love of football.

Renate:
Love when Steve says: "Paul, you need medical help! You've got a disease." Good riposte for the crapness.

And yes, I love the relationships of Paul/Steve and Sarah/Jo very much, too. What do you think would have happened if Steve and Jo would have met. Would they have mirrored the Paul/Sarah relationship? I once read that Holly Aird and Mark Strong also were considered to play the parts of Sarah/Paul.

Would we still like the film?

Karen:
(Renate) his book is about football obsession and not about love. He extremely understated the `falling-in-love-routine,' to avoid the cliché.
This is from UK Empire (April 1997):

"The film...tells how one man's obsession with a football team obstructs the path of true love. But although it bears the same title as Hornby's autobiographical best seller, the screenplay is a work of fiction, a romantic comedy if you will, that more closely resembles Hornby's novel High Fidelity...."

"Director David Evans bristles at the suggestion this might be a football film: 'There are no actors in shorts in Fever Pitch. The only people who play football are professional footballers and there is no attempt to blend them with actors the way the genre always seem to. This is a romantic comedy. The plot of this film is boy meets girl..."

"But," interjects Hornby, smirking, "we hear the word 'Arsenal' about 18 million times..."

"A couple of months later, Firth is able to shore up the defence: 'It seriously isn't a football movie—although it's very stupid to pretend football isn't largely featured. But I think most of the sports movies that have worked have done so because they're not focusing on the sport. Like Raging Bull, it's not a boxing movie, it's about machismo and jealousy and relationships. And although they did use boxing footage, the film doesn't lean on it. And Fever Pitch doesn't lean on football footage—although they show the Anfield game, because it was so dramatic, as part of the climax of the film. But, again, they're not really leaning on that because it's shown in fuzzy video form: what's really happening in the scene is in the living room...."

(Heide) Laura, glad you brought up Mr. Knightly, I mean Steve. Is he really an anthropologist?
I think Laura's comment had to do with the voiceover that occurs just then. Remember, it starts out with: "Anthropologists have always had a hard time with football."

Clarification: Heide, I think it's "sting the bastard" not "squeeze."

Fun Fact or "Calling Oliver Stone": The last line in the Paul-Ted conversation is "Are you a complete fool, Paul. I'll talk to you later." The next scene finds Paul on the field and Sarah comes up to him and the very first thing she says is: "Are you a complete fool?"

(Arami) The split condom has the pivotal role. (I am surprised that Durex didn't sue the film makers!)
In the U.S., that's what's called a product placement! ;-) 

Beth:
From an existential point of view, it seems that Paul derives a great deal of meaning from his obsession, and it will take something equally meaningful for him to replace it, or at the very least, to give his life more balance. Can't wait to analyze this character from the film. I have a feeling I'll be drooling initially and will have to defer my in-depth analysis. leave myself time to drool.

Heide:
I have grown a soft spot for young Paul but why couldn't they cast a kid who looked remotely like Colin? The hair was all wrong. I'm not talking about the buzz cut but where were his curls? If they had to put a wig on the kid, why couldn't they at least have put one on with some curls?

I have to laugh at how openly Paul is able to smoke in school. Smoking is almost a crime in the US and it wasn't much different ten years ago. It's amusing (and refreshing) to me to see the noninterfering attitude toward smoking at least back then. I know it's changed in Europe now too.

A point about Sarah. In the beginning she always wears this tailored, severe suit to school and later is seen in softer sweater and skirt sets. A sign of loosening up?

Does everyone know at this point that Nick Hornby plays the opposing coach in the scene where Sarah confronts Paul about his telling Ted about the pregnancy?

I like Steve's completely confused expression in the scene where they're drinking outside before a big Arsenal match that they need to win but don't. Paul is trying to explain how his whole outlook on life and football has changed. That it's okay if Arsenal loses: "I'll cope because of Sarah and the baby." Steve doesn't believe it for a minute.

Perhaps another sign of latent maturity in Paul. Before the big match when Sarah stops him in the parking lot to wish him luck, we learn that Paul has resigned. "Be a bit awkward, wouldn't it, working in the next room to the absent father of your child." It's rare to see Paul so cynical.

(Renate) I once read that Holly Aird and Mark Strong also were considered to play the parts of Sarah/Paul. Would we still like the film?
Good point. Somehow I don't think so many of us would have seen this film.

(Beth) it seems that Paul derives a great deal of meaning from his obsession, and it will take something equally meaningful for him to replace it, or at the very least, to give his life more balance.
Very perceptive point, especially from someone who hasn't even seen the film. Did you get all that just from the discussion because I'd say it's right on the money. Now the question is, will his relationship with Sarah and imminent fatherhood be meaningful enough?

Bethan:
Will Paul and Sarah's relationship last?
I remember a discussion about FP. One reviewer (female) was rather scathing about the relationship but, interestingly, the two male reviewers thought that it was depicted in a very understated, very '90s, and very real way. They could relate to Paul. Perhaps women expect too much?!

Paul's in his mid-30s, Sarah in her late 20s perhaps.There's nothing cloying or sentimental about their relationship, but I think that they do seem to genuinely like each other. Sarah gives Paul some looks of genuine albeit exasperated affection, he hugs and caresses her with slightly absent-minded tenderness. I like the way they walk together at the end, slightly apart and then holding hands, and, yes, I do think that the relationship will last.

Funnily enough, I think that if you want to get more insight into Paul and Sarah's relationship, the book to read is Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, not Fever Pitch.

I think that NH captures very well the embarrassments of 30s relationships, and this is what we sometimes see in the FP movie. Understated, yes, but real life—as when Paul wakes up with Sarah in his bed, his immediate thought is that he's hungry and wants a pizza. Perhaps not very romantic, but I liked his scene! And I liked the entire movie.

Top of Page

Back to Discussion Index

The Bucket's main page

Part 1

Part 2

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Original layouts by Kirsten