Friday, December 11, 2020

The Best Movies of My Life: Fever Pitch (2005)

It is impossible for me to forgive Jimmy Fallon. I've long since given up trying.

Some of you remember when Donald Trump showed up on The Tonight Show, and Fallon lobbed mush-ball cutesy questions at him, and laughed with him, and mussed his hair. It was the 2016 General Election campaign season, and the world knew enough about Trump at that point to know that he is a genuine monster, a psychopath, devoid of decency and any moral compass whatsoever. It was like reaching across the desk to play with Hitler's mustache. It was that offensive.

Fallon, of course, should have known better, and many got on him afterward. Many however came to his defense, and some of those celebrities I can't forgive, either. But since then, I have yet to hear him offer even a single heartfelt apology for his dumbfuckery. That's not just disappointing; it's a done deal for me with respect to him, whom I loved on Saturday Night Live, and in this film.

I stopped watching The Tonight Show and haven't returned, not even once. I know there are many out there just like me, because Colbert, who would never in a million centuries muss Trump's hair or lob easy bullshit questions at him, has since surpassed Fallon in the ratings race, and, as I understand it, has widened the gap over time.

Fallon's desire to get along with everybody means that he, in truth, doesn't care for anybody. When everybody is a winner in your world, then there are no winners. His affable good nature may be charming--that is, until you glance at that truth and see it for what it is. Fallon wants to straddle the fence in a time when doing so is immoral.

But enough about that.

After the Trump debacle, I considered not ever watching Fever Pitch again as well. But the truth is, I really didn't want to stop doing that. This is Jimmy Fallon as Jimmy Fallon should be; and I wish he had opted to remain in acting rather than go into the talk-show biz.

Here he's Ben Wrightman, a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan in 2004, the year the Sox finally overcame the storied Curse of the Bambino and won the World Series after more than eighty years without a title. He's a true fan, and blessed with his late uncle's season tickets to Fenway Park, which are just a few rows over the Boston dugout. There, eighty games a year, he offers his devotion and adulation to his favorite pro team. He even has a scheduling party for his friends to determine who will go with him to various games. His bedroom looks like a Red Sox gift shop--unapologetically so. He travels to Florida each year to the Sox's spring training camp, where he lets himself go nuts.

He's also a middle-school mathematics teacher, and is about to meet a fast-moving corporate careerist played by Drew Barrymore, who is in position for a promotion to ostensibly even greater cash and perks. He takes a select group of his A students on a math field trip to the corporation, in order to connect their studies to possible future careers. She's supposed to be the one to show them around.

He's smitten, but she turns down his awkward request for a date. When she finally does agree to go out with him, bad sushi from lunch gets in the way. She greets him at her door green-faced and totally unprepared; then runs to the bathroom to puke. Instead of turning away and going home, he stays and cleans up after her, helps her into her pajamas, and even brushes the dog's teeth. Very endearing, more than enough for her to agree to another try.

She discovers that he's quite different from the "poodles" she typically dates. When he "proposes" to her to accompany him to the Red Sox's opening day at Fenway, a great honor, she doesn't realize that when he declares that he's a big, big fan of the team, he means it more than even his speech reveals.

This of course leads to the central conflict of the story, especially when she misses her period and he turns her down for company-paid trip to Paris so he doesn't miss an important late-season game.

I've always been a big Drew Barrymore fan, especially here and in Music & Lyrics, which came out in the same two-year period. She's adorable and funny and a match for Fallon's comedic wit and timing.

This film explores in a very subtle way what it means to be an individual in a committed relationship. That isn't a small thing, nor is it addressed as it should be, as it is here. Most people, when they get into a relationship, especially here in America, simply give up the things they love so as not to offend or push away their partner. They also give up all their other friends as well. I have been a victim of this dysfunctional behavior more times than I can tell you. Couples "hole up": they disappear into their suburban unlives, shit out the requisite number of kids, brainwash them into the unholy cycle of isolation and suburban disvalues, and on and on it goes. The denouement of the film strongly refutes this worldview while celebrating the Red Sox's championship. It's an excellent commingling of a couple's love and the overcoming of their individual and shared barriers with the banishment of the Curse of the Bambino. It shouldn't be lost on the viewer that the utter unlikelihood of that championship matches the unlikelihood of such a coupleship working out, especially in this day and age, when conformity and suburbanism rule over all.

So Jimmy, here's my message to you. I won't watch The Tonight Show anymore; but I will continue watching this excellent film, one of the very few you starred in. If you ever do pull your head out of your ass and truly apologize to the American public for that sham-shit interview with a true dickhead monster, I'll start watching your interviews again. Deal?