I went with my sister a few days ago to see the new film Fever Pitch, based loosely on Nick Hornby’s memoir of his love affair with the London soccer team Arsenal. It was filmed once before, adapted by Hornby himself, and starred Colin Firth. The new version stars Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, and instead of being about a character’s love of a soccer team is about his love of the Boston Red Sox.
I didn’t like it.
I want to get something out of the way. My dislike of the film had nothing to do with my love of Nick Hornby’s book. It’s a fantastic book, and I will write a little more about the book momentarily. No, my dislike stems from a not-great script and piss-poor acting on the part of Drew Barrymore. Barrymore can’t emote convincingly, and the script suffers from one relationship cliche after another. The film never surprised me.
Oddly, I never thought of the book while watching the film, yet the new Fever Pitch covered a lot of the same ground as the Colin Firth film. The reason is that the first film wasn’t the book, either. In broad strokes they tell the same story. But where the two films play with a simple romantic storyline set against a sports backdrop, the book isn’t about sport. It’s about measuring one’s life against that sport. It’s about how a certain game made Hornby feel, about who Hornby was at that moment. The films simply can’t capture that, and thus reduce the male character to a simple sports fan. The book is about being a fan. The films are about fans. Therein lies the difference.