Saturday, April 16, 2005

Fever Pitch d. Peter & Bobby Farrelly, 2005

A little known fact about me: I've spent the majority of my life steeped in The Game. No, not Fincher's 1997 film. For the pups born after 1990, not basketball - college or otherwise. And for anyone in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, or anywhere else in the world, not football either. Given the context, it should be pretty obvious what I'm talkin' 'bout - Baseball, America's pastime. I pitched and played 3rd base; when I wasn't on the field I watched my boys of the green and gold, the Oakland Athletics. Things were pretty peachy for me in the early years, '88 - '92. Canseco, McGwire, Stewart, Welch, Lansford, Parker, Henderson (Rickey and Dave), Eckersley - those were times both green and gold, for sure. Three World Series appearances, one title, and four postseason appearances overall. The problem is that, unless your team wears pinstripes and resides in New York, October isn't always such a pretty time. The A's would not taste the postseason after 1992 until 2000. But the hurt does not stop there: 2000 - 2003 the A's bring the Division Series to Game 5 and lose each and every time. Four years in a row, with the best pitching staff (The Big Three; Hudson, Mulder, Zito) in The Game and a decent lineup to boot, the A's toy with their fans, blue-balling them for (what seems like) the sheer fun of it. Meanwhile: during this time I am enjoying my greatest personal success. In 1996, as a 12 yr. Old, I throw a no-hitter, finish the season 9-1 with a 1.95 ERA, and make the All-Star team, which goes on to finish 26th in the U.S., two games shy of the Little League World Series. My general success continues, but I become embittered by the politics lurking behind the game (politics that are undeniably present, even at the age of 15 playing Babe Ruth League ball), and give up my cleats at the age of 16. My love for the A's continues strong though, and I've been known to enter multi-week bouts of near-depression following a post-season Athletics implosion. Sure enough, the A's are going to continue to "keep things interesting" for me and my ulcers. During the off-season, they traded away Jermaine Dye (Ok...), Tim Hudson (...wait, are you...), and Mark Mulder (...shitting me?!). That’s 2/3 of The Big Three - the reliable 2/3 - and quite possibly the most clutch hitter on the team. All this in mind, all of this taken into consideration, and my spectator well-being very carefully weighed w/r/t the '05 season: I was more than ready to see Fever Pitch.

Compared to the ailments of being a Red Sox fan from 1918 - 2004, my Oakland Athletics fanboy woes come off as silly, unreasonable, and worthy only of a passing sneer. And in comparison to the dedication shown by Fever Pitch's Ben (Jimmy Fallon), mine is a day tripping, Sunday driver sort of fancy. Ben is a werewolf of sorts - normal, subdued and calm during the off-season (Nov. - Mar.), but a Monster of Green proportions during Spring, Summer, and early Fall. His fandom overwhelms every other aspect of his life, spilling into his job (teaching high school math - what a lame 9 to 5, eh?) and his personal life (which seems to be occupied almost exclusively by folks who share Ben's unwavering zeal.) Fortunately for Ben, he meets Lindsey (Drew Barrymore) in late-October, after the Red Sox have, once again, blown their shot at a World Series. They - naturally for the rom-com genre - fall into some sort of love, filled with inside jokes, quirky asides, and (what by all evidence appears to be) really great sex. And then April rolls around. At this point the film should become a tiny snowball, quickly avalanching into disaster via insipid cliches and vapid, unfunny gags given more lives than a half-successful Hindu priest, care of the rote, paint-by-numbers nature of the romantic comedy. And yet, somehow, it doesn't. The sudden, horrible, abrupt, imagination-lacking breakup scene that occurs at the second act's end of every rom-com is given new life via a gradual genuine situation, one in which just about anyone could see themselves in (n.b. obviously with the specifics tailored to fit the individual.) And the unavoidable third act reunion is more than a bore to watch this go-round, due mainly to the fact that both parties are putting something of actual worth on the line.

Throughout Fever Pitch it becomes clear that both Fallon and Barrymore realize (thank the stars) that they are not acting in a traditional re-tread of the rom-com. Fallon keeps the hamming to a minimum, while Barrymore plays a real woman, devoid of both the damsel-in-distress affectations and the soft center/hard shell auto-acting. The script is at least partly responsible for this, but kudos should be given to the actors (and directors) for not doing what would have been so easy to do.

It's hard to say anything negative about Fever Pitch; the film is so utterly likable - a deep well of pure goodness - that any negative is counter-balanced by a dozen or so positives and effectively erased from memory. There's something about another guy (Andrew Wilson; Luke & Owen's brother) popping up, but the device is so marginal that it hardly matters. The single most positive thing I can say about the film is this: it made me desire (at least a little bit) a place amongst the increasing fan base of the Red Sox. Which, coming from a die-hard fan of a team that was trounced over and over by the Sox during last year's regular season, is indicative of a pretty impressive bit of filmmaking.

(And, yes, I do realize the irony of the title of this website being Cinema. Et Cetera., and this being the first 2005 film I have seen in the theater this year. Laugh it up. At least I get paid to do this. Wait, what's that? I don't get paid? Oh bother.)


Anonymous Scott said...

As much as I enjoyed last year's World Series (I was born in the Boston area, although I've lived in NOLA for a LONG time), I still can't believe that this is worthy of anything more than a DVD rental. I mean, Jimmy Fallon? Who decided that he was comedic leading man material? His SNL skits used to drive me crazy. He couldn't get through one without giggling. And Drew Barrymore has never been one of my favorite actresses. She seems sweet in a clueless kind of way, but I'm not quite sure how she's managed to turn herself into a one-woman movie-making powerhouse. That said, I'll still probably see it on video, by which time the Sox will no doubt be leading the East by a dozen games or so.

P.S.: Yankees suck! ;-)

17 April, 2005 06:56  
Blogger Michael K. said...

Agreed, the Yankees do suck. Admittedly, I'm coming from a diffrent place re: Fallon, having found his mid-act combustions to be an odd, but entertaining, combination of endearing and (quite possibly) intoxicated. But seriously: he's good in this. I probably would have seen it on the small screen if not for the strong recommendation of a friend and the fact that I really owed by girlfriend a "normal" movie date, after making her watch stuff like L'Eclisse, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, and Persona. I'm so glad I took the plunge - great film, one I'd be entirely content with placing on my year-end Top Ten.

17 April, 2005 23:20  

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