Big Fan Movie Review
BIG FAN (2009)
Written and Directed by: Robert Siegel
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rappaport
Distributor: First Independent Pictures
Original Release Date: August 28, 2009
"Big Fan" is a 2009 independent drama about the absurdity of people and their sports obsessions. Most of us have them. If you've visited the hockey site that we also run along with Better With Popcorn, you can tell that we do have our own sports obsessions. Mine may not be as insane as Paul Aufiero's (the main character, portrayed by comedian Patton Oswalt), but they're certainly existent. Just like "Paul from Staten Island", I walk around town in my team gear, I have Montreal Canadiens posters and memorabilia in my home and in my room, and I take in every single game the team plays, every single piece of news I come across. Hell, I created a website just so I can blog about them and cover the team.
But director/writer Robert Siegel (of "The Wrestler" fame) manages to take that obsession to a whole new level, all the while keeping it mostly believable and firmly cemented into the ground. You believe that Oswalt's character is as obsessed as he seems with the New York Giants, that they are really his only reason for living. You can believe that the trials and tribulations that his character goes through in the movie could actually happen, and that's because the character, while a little caricatured, is relatable, because to a certain degree, we've all been where this character has been. If not for sports, than for something else. We all have our obsessions, our hobbies that may sometimes take over our lives, and those are things we have to balance with our real lives. Most of us can't be professional athletes, so we escape into their worlds by cheering for the teams they play for, by listening to sports radio, by buying their gear and memorabilia.
Naturally, as you're about to see, most of us would never take it to Paul's extreme, but hey, like I said, we all have our obsessions.
Paul Aufiero is a 36-year-old parking lot attendant that lives his with mother. If it wasn't for his gut and the wrinkles beginning to appear on his face, you'd have no trouble imagining he's a teenager. His mother even confronts him for finding an inordinate amount of... tissues... in his wastebasket, about his swearing and his dirty underwear. Paul's life is going nowhere. But he likes it that way. He ignores job offers from his brothers (who have families and lives) and spends most of his time obsessed with the Giants, even writing down what he's going to say on the radio show he calls in to. His best friend, Sal (portrayed by the incomparable Kevin Corrigan, known for being in pretty much anything that requires a supporting New England accent), is likely as obsessed with him, as shown by the fact that through all the crap his best friend goes through, he sticks by him where everyone else doesn't. Together, they go to the arena to watch home games... but can't afford tickets so they hook up a TV to their car battery and watch in the parking lot.
One night over a slice of pizza, they discover Paul's favorite player, Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm - no not the one you're thinking of) gassing up at a nearby station, and they decide to tail him all the way to a strip club downtown. Paul and Sal follow him in, and a few nine dollar beers later, finally work up the balls to go over to the player and introduce themselves. Unfortunately for Paul, he lets word slip that he tailed the player through town - including a stop to pick up drugs. Thinking that Paul was there to blackmail him, Bishop beats the living hell out of Paul, to within an inch of his life.
Bishop is suspended pending an investigation of the incident, and Paul's life is set into a tailspin when he has to choose between seeking justice for the massive beating he took, or biting his tongue so that his team can beat the dreaded Philadelphia Eagles and he can shut up a trolling caller to his radio show, "Philadelphia Phil" (voiced and later portrayed by another greatly underrated actor, Michael Rappaport), who says some pretty mean things on the air when he figures out that the "Paul" that calls into the show is also the Paul who got his ass handed to him by Bishop.
The movie climaxes in a Monday Night affair between the Eagles and the Giants at the end of the season. Because he's clearly troubled, Paul decides to don Eagles gear and facepaint (in this case, a sheep in wolves' clothing), drives down to Philly and finds Philadelphia Phil, where after an embarrassing win by the Eagles, he confronts Phil in the bathroom with a gun.... a paintball gun. Running out of the bathroom and the bar, he's eventually caught by police and convicted to prison. His best friend Sal visits him, and all they can talk about is the upcoming season schedule of the Giants and how this will be their big year.
As you can see, the film toils with the absurd and the obsessed, with the losers and lowlifes of the world that would rather see a team win than see a rich lowlife come to justice. You can tell that the movie tries hard to be funny at times. As a matter of fact, it was Siegel's intention for the film to be a comedy, with the casting of such comedic actors as Oswalt, Rappaport and Corrigan. But if Siegel would have continued with the comedy route, he would have probably had an uncomfortable mess on his hands. It's still an uncomfortable mess (including a scene that's totally but also not at all like the masturbation scene in Black Swan), but it's ok, because it's a drama - maybe a dramedy. The whole point is to make you uncomfortable, and Siegel, as well as a real breakout performance from Oswalt, really do a good job at accomplishing that through great writing and acting.
Just like what Siegel did to us with "The Wrestler" two years ago, whether you care about football or not, you feel for the characters in this film and he really does a good job of making them relatable and realistic, despite some uncomfortable scenes that you can tell may have been intended to be part of a slapstick comedy. In the end, everything pulls together nicely to make a good, unique drama, and a 7.5 out of 10 from BWP.