Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: David Evans
Stars: Colin Firth, Ruth Gemmell, Mark Strong, Neil Pearson, Lorraine Ashbourne, Stephen Rea, Holly Aird, Ken Stott, Luke Aikman
Running time: 102 minutes.
The obsessive nature of a hard-core football fanatic is explored in this superb screen adaptation of Nick Hornby’s autobiographical novel. But Fever Pitch is not just about football. It also deals with a number of complex issues concerning obsessive behaviour, dysfunctional families, and the on-going battle between the sexes. Fever Pitch is also suffused with a strong dose of earthy humour that suits the material.
Sports teacher Paul Ashworth (Colin Firth, recently seen in The English Patient) is a life-long supporter of the Arsenal football team, who finds his emotional moods matching the fluctuating fortunes of his beloved team. A series of wonderfully drawn flashback sequences trace the development of Paul’s obsession, from his first, wide-eyed visit to a football match with his estranged father, through to the abiding passion that consumes his adult life.
When Arsenal looks like having its most successful season in 18 years, Paul is caught up in the frenzied atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. However, he finds his devotion challenged by Sarah (television and theatre veteran Ruth Gemmell, from Band Of Gold, etc), the dour and uptight English Lit teacher who cannot understand his fanaticism about sport. The pair are complete opposites, with little understanding of each other’s likes or dislikes or personality. But, in true romantic comedy fashion, they begin to fall heavily for each other and are then forced to negotiate the tricky path to compromise in order for their rocky relationship to survive.
Making his film debut, former theatre and documentary director David Evans maintains a brisk pace throughout. He draws engaging performances from his two leads, who capture the confused emotional journey of their characters with genuine warmth and honesty. Firth is superb, delivering a blustering and raucous comic performance, while Gemmell maintains a more subtly nuanced performance. Mark Strong brings bawdy humour to his colourful role as Steve, Paul’s best friend and fellow football fanatic, who observes the blossoming romance with bemusement and a touch of cynicism. To flesh out the secondary roles, Evans has assembled a strong supporting cast, that includes veterans Stephen Rea (Michael Collins, etc), Drop The Dead Donkey’s Neil Pearson, and Ken Stott.
A brilliant soundtrack, featuring British bands from ’70′s rockers like Slade through to more contemporary bands such as The Smiths, encapsulates the different time frames of the film perfectly, and adds to the wonderful atmosphere.
Currently on general release.
©Greg King 1997 Melbourne Australia