Skip to main content

English Fever Pitch vs. American Fever Pitch

To introduce a new wrinkle into the tired old Book vs. Film Adaptation debate (since books almost always win), today I'm taking a look at a sub-category of that debate: Film Adaptation vs. Film Adaptation. Today I'm concerned with the two different adaptations of Nick Hornby's 1992 memoir Fever Pitch from the two different sides of the pond: England and the U.S.

1997 - U.K. 
On one hand....we have Fever Pitch (1997 - U.K.): Stars Colin Firth and Ruth Gemmell, takes place in England and is actually about soccer; sort of brings Hornby's memoir to celluloid life by fabricating a "love story" and pitting the main character's love of Arsenal Football Club against his Adult Life and the fact that his girlfriend is pregnant and all that. Interesting because the film completely does away with the age-old and trite question of "will he get the girl?" by having the girl (a co-worker) come on to him early in the film and then dealing more with the arch of their relationship after. Also cool because there are little tidbits in there which you'll only know the significance of if you've read or are reading the book. Really, not a bad film at all, even taken by itself.

2005 - U.S.
On the other hand...we have Fever Pitch (2005 - U.S.): Stars Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, takes place in the U.S., is about pro baseball's Boston Redsox, and bears only scant relation to Hornby's book. This fight so obviously goes to the English version that it's not even worth doing a point by point comparison. Not only is the English version a smarter, subtler and better-acted film...it actually has something to do with the original memoir, unlike American version. Look, I understand Hollywood Studios are out to make money and when they smell a good story-line they go for it. Can I fault them for glomming onto Fever Pitch spinning it into a sappy rom-com about baseball in order to make a few bucks? No. But it is rather remarkable (read: shameful and embarrassing) how the entertainment business can peel the husk (really just two words!) off of a great memoir and a not so bad film and slap it on a cutesy film bearing no resemblance to the original material. 

The only saving grace is that someone, somewhere (hopefully Nick Hornby but probably not) made some money off this and it's not like anyone got exploited in the process (we are not mining diamonds or growing sugar cane here). As far as I'm aware, there were no rights disputes over this film. I've not seen Hornby's comments on the American version but....do I really need to? The American film has about as much to do with the memoir as pizza flavored Combos have to do with pizza. What would you have to say if someone made a film version of your memoir but set it in another country and used in it a sport or job you never had any contact with whatsoever? You'd say: "Thank you. Now, pay me." Which is all I hope Hornby said about the situation. 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Apologizer" by Milan Kundera

Issue: May 4, 2015

Rating: $$

Review: It took me five years and three separate attempts to finish Milan Kundera's famous novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but in spite of that, quotes and insights from that book still rattle round my head on a weekly basis. What I mean to say is: my feelings on Kundera are very similar to my feelings on Haruki Murakami. I enjoy reading his work, but in small doses, like this short story.

Like Murakami, Kundera uses elements of magical realism, but where in a Murakami story you might encounter a flying dolphin or a disappearing hotel or a person who has lived his whole life in the same room, refusing to leave, Kundera's magical realism offers more direct insights and perspective on real life.

In Kundera's worlds, time and space are malleable and everything that ever happened in history is happening at the same time, and the narrator is a completely omniscient, caring, witty, and hands-on god-like being.

And so it is with "The Apo…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Meet the President!" by Zadie Smith

Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker. If you told me when I was 12 that I'd be doing this I'd have been like, "Dork. There's no such thing as blogs," and I'd have been right...

Issue: Aug. 12 & 19, 2013

Story: "Meet the President!"

Author:Zadie Smith

(Please note: I've developed a highly sophisticated grading system, which I'll be using from now on.  Each story will now receive a Final Grade of either READ IT or DON'T READ it. See the bottom of the review for this story's grade...after you've read the review, natch.)

Plot: Set in England, far into the future (lets say 2113) a privileged youth of 15, named Bill Peek, encounters a few poor villagers from a small, abandoned coastal town on the southeast shore. He meets a little girl named Aggie, who is going to her sister's funeral. Peek is cut-off from real life by a sophisticated video game system that is implanted in his head, therefore th…

A Piece of Advice I Learned From My Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most learned men I know. He read widely and voraciously, and not just in the sciences (he was a doctor); he loved politics, philosophy, and great literature as well. Whenever he finished a book he would write his thoughts about the book in the front cover and then sign and date it. To this day every once in a while I will open a book from my bookshelf or my mother's bookshelf, or at one of my family members' homes, and there will be my grandfather's handwriting. He was also a great giver of his books; if you remarked that you liked a particular one or wanted to read it, you were almost sure to take it home with you.

Reading is a very solitary pursuit but my grandfather was not a solitary person. He relished having family and friends around him which is convenient because he was blessed with a lot of both. And he carried out his intellectual life in a very "public" way as well. He was, in some ways, an intellectual evangelist. If he r…