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Big Fan (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

Big Fan

Big Fan

BIG FAN (2009)

Starring Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rapaport, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Gino Cafarelli, Matt Servitto, Serafina Fiore, Polly Humphreys, Joe Garden, Jonathan Hamm, Sidné Anderson and Miranda Rhyne.

Screenplay by Robert D. Siegel.

Directed by Robert D. Siegel.

Distributed by First Independent Pictures.  86 minutes.  Not Rated.

Big Fan treads a fine line – trying to get you to feel for its hero at the same time as going out of its way to make him seem completely pathetic.

That is a line the film is not completely successful at straddling, making the movie an interesting character study about a deluded loser.  The film is easy to respect at the same time that the person it is about is nearly impossible to respect.

Yet the film holds a certain shabby fascination looking at the vagaries of sports and fame.  Not totally surprisingly, Big Fan is the directing debut of screenwriter Robert Siegel – who swam in vaguely similar waters with the screenplay for last year’s acclaimed The Wrestler.

The Wrestler had more of a wide appeal – Big Fan is not about a has-been athlete but a wannabe.  There is no romantic subplot like the Marisa Tomei section of the earlier film.  In fact, there are very few women in the film at all – and the ones who are there are pretty horrible and shrill.  Not that The Wrestler was a date movie or something, but I couldn’t see a woman ever watching Big Fan unless it was by accident.

Ironically, its biggest shot at a wide audience would probably be with the very people it is judging – the die-hard sports nerds.

Big Fan stars comedian Patton Oswalt in a stunning performance – but just because he is here do not think that it is a comedy.  There are some very funny moments, but mostly the movie is a sad, slightly depressing look at a man who has let his sports fandom overwhelm everything else in his life.

Oswalt plays Paul Aufiero, a man in his mid-thirties who lives in the tiny Staten Island house that he grew up in.  His room has changed little or none since he was a boy – he still masturbates late at night under NFL sheets.  He spends his days fighting with his nagging mother.  Paul works the night shift at a parking garage and obsessively writes up trash-talk speeches to give on his local sports radio station about his beloved New York Football Giants.

Every home game, Paul and his buddy go to the Meadowlands, tailgate outside and then eventually watch the Giants game on lawn chairs in the parking lot, because neither of them can afford tickets.  Kevin Corrigan is also spot on as his best friend who is even more pathetic – he actually aspires to being Paul.

Beyond his mother, Paul’s family is an ambulance-chasing lawyer brother and an unhappily married sister.  There is a scene where Paul insists to his mother “I don’t want what they have” – after undoubtedly the thousandth lecture of having a normal life like his brother and sister.  It’s a tough scene, because we agree with him – their lives are pretty awful – at the same time his world seems like it may even be worse.

Two things throw Paul’s stagnant life out of whack.  First of all, he gets into a war of words with Philadelphia Phil (Michael Rapaport), an Eagles fan who has taken to calling the New York station and taunting the division rivals.  (In all fairness I should admit that like Phil, I’m a lifelong Eagles fan, though I have never gone to the face-painting extremes that these guys do.)

Then, by chance when getting a slice of pizza with his buddy, Paul sees his favorite player – Quantrell Bishop, a Giant defender.  The two friends start following the player’s car, eventually ending up at an upscale Gentlemen’s club in Manhattan.

When Paul finally gets the nerve to go up to his hero, he mistakenly lets out that they had followed him from Staten Island.  Bishop is angered – with good reason, what these guys did was way over the top.  However how the defender reacts, beating the fan into a three-day coma, is also way over the top.

All of a sudden Paul finds himself in the hospital, learns that Bishop has been suspended from the team and they are  losing without him – and the hated Eagles are gaining on them.  In some strange way he has changed the axis of his beloved team and he would like nothing more than to turn back time.  The police are trying to create a case but frustrated by the lack of help from their victim.  Then Paul makes a monumental decision to get revenge on Philadelphia Phil.

Big Fan has its milieu nailed – if you have ever listened to sports talk radio you know these guys.  It’s a sad, sordid life and yet oddly fascinating.  Sports can be a salve for life’s disappointments – but at what point does it go too far?  Paul seems to be willing to give his all and receive all of his self-worth from a bunch of multi-millionaires who would not give him the time of day.

Devotion or delusion?  I suppose that depends on your point of view.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: August 1, 2009.


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