Fever Pitch (1997)
A film so seemingly British that it was virtually unreleased in the States, Nick Hornby's fictionalized adaptation of his memoir of obsessive soccer fanhood will nonetheless strike a chord with any Yank who's ever lived or died with The Team--and wondered whether that was all there was. The underrated Colin Firth (Shakespeare in Love, TV's Pride and Prejudice) plays Paul Ashworth, a thirtysomething London schoolteacher whose burgeoning relationship with a pretty colleague, Sarah (Ruth Gemmell), collides with his much deeper relationship with his beloved Arsenal football team. Just as Paul starts to consider a life beyond the goalposts, Arsenal starts marching toward the championship he's been pining for since childhood. A lesser film--or, for that matter, an American film--would make Paul lovably wacky and Sarah an uptight bitch who needs loosening up, but Hornby and director David Evans are too smart for that. Fever Pitch nails the bond between fan and team like no other film, but it also nails why that bond can be both a wonderful and a terrible thing. If the ending lets Paul off the hook a little too easily, Hornby's sharply drawn characters and smart, funny dialogue, and Firth's wonderfully open performance as a sympathetic, self-aware, but slightly bewildered man trying to emerge from suspended adolescence, will put you in a forgiving mood.