Monday, April 11, 2005

A Love Song for Red Sox Nation: "Fever Pitch" is a Winner


directed by Peter & Bobby Farrelly
starring Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon

Because it’s entirely impossible for me to be objective about this movie, I’m not even going to try. My guess is that anyone who’s from Boston or has spent significant time there will find it difficult to dislike “Fever Pitch.” Myself, I loved the movie. Not so much because it’s a great romantic comedy (it’s not), but because it’s such a heartfelt love letter to the Sox, to Sox fans, and, of course, to Boston.

Which is not to say that’s the only reason to see it. “Fever Pitch” has a lot going for it besides the Boston connection. In its original incarnation, of course, it had no connection to Boston or to baseball at all. The current version is very loosely adapted—or rather, derived—from the Nick Hornby novel about a Brit whose hapless devotion to a soccer (sorry, football) team threatens to derail his love life. (It was made into a 1997 movie, little seen outside Britain, starring Colin Firth.) Still, the transatlantic translation works, and Hornby’s excellent track record for transfer to film (see, e.g., “High Fidelity,” “About a Boy”) remains unmarred. The Farrelly brothers’ insight into the boy-man mentality isn’t as incisive as Hornby’s, but they portray the Bosox-besotted boy-man, Ben (Jimmy Fallon), with a nice balance of sympathy and ridicule—and much less than their usual quota of gross-out humor.

They also have the benefit of Drew Barrymore, who could carry a rom-com in her sleep. She’s endearing as always here, if not quite convincing as the high-powered workaholic consultant-type who falls for Fallon’s type-B schoolteacher. The movie does get in a couple of funny and fairly on-point observations about the dating landscape for ambitious professional women, though the supporting cast of female friends (including Ione Skye, the chick from “Say Anything”) is underdeveloped across the board. (Ben’s cronies don’t fare much better, though they’re funnier.) Still, the two leads have a nice, relaxed chemistry that wards off some potentially prickly questions of class and gender dynamics. And though their respective moments of romantic epiphany are both predictable and contrived, they do give us a hilarious sequence involving Barrymore dashing like mad through the baseball field and using Johnny Damon as a human shield.

But it’s the Farrellys’ affection for Beantown and its favorite home team that gives the movie its unquenchable sparkle. A friend of mine accurately noted that real Sox fans can get a lot uglier and more obstreperous than the fairly harmless group of lunatics who make up Ben’s Fenway family. Yet “Fever Pitch” does pay fitting homage to the unreasoning attachment, the fits of gloom, and the superstitious tics and rituals, incomprehensible to the uninitiated outsider, that constitute a true believer—pre-2004 World Series. The fact that there was a real-life fairy-tale ending, though it’s somewhat awkwardly incorporated into the movie, only increases the sentimental value of remembering the Red Sox Nation as they were. By the same token, I concede that Boston is never as consistently sunny and pleasant as it apparently was for Lindsey and Ben. Still—the visual image that always comes to my mind when I think of my old stomping ground is the sunlight reflecting off the glass face of the John Hancock Tower and the Charles River. Seeing those same shots in the movie was like coming home. “Fever Pitch” is must-viewing for the Boston expat—because it shows the city as it ought to be remembered.



Blogger lylee said...

hi. I was just doing the stereotypical "google" my name and found your blog, and really liked your musings on the election from last year. I was wondering if your given name is Lylee and the story behind it, because i've never met another Lylee, and it fascinates me.
have a great day
-lylee from st.louis

3:42 PM  

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