Big Fan *** 1/2
Directed By: Robert D. Siegel.
Written By: Robert D. Siegel.
Starring: Patton Oswalt (Paul Aufiero), Kevin Corrigan (Sal), Michael Rapaport (Philadelphia Phil), Marcia Jean Kurtz (Paul's Mom), Gino Cafarelli (Jeff), Matt Servitto (Detective Velarde), Serafina Fiore (Gina), Polly Humphreys (Christine), Joe Garden (Dennis), Jonathan Hamm (Quantrell Bishop).
Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt) is 36 years old, works as a parking lot booth and lives at home with his mother in Staten Island. His brother is a lawyer and happily married with kids, and his sister also is married and happy. In comparison, Paul has next to nothing in his life. Except for the New York Football Giants. He is not just a fan, but an obsessive. He sits in his little booth all night listening to the Sports Dog radio show, and planning out what he is going to say when he calls in when he gets off. He has an ongoing feud going on with Philadelphia Phil, a fan of the hated Eagles, who calls into mock Giants nation. Without the Giants, and his favorite player, defensive end Quantrell Bishop, he would have nothing.
One night, Paul and his friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) are having a slice of pizza and they see Bishop across the street filling up his SUV with gas. They decide to follow him. Bishop and his posse make a stop at a run down house in their area, before heading to Manhattan. Paul and Sal follow them into a high class strip club. Everyone is watching the naked women except for them. They are watching Bishop. Paul decides to go see Bishop in the VIP area. Things start out badly, and go down from there. Bishop beats Paul into a coma. When he wakes up, three days later, the first thing he asks is what the score of the Giants game was. When he finds out that they lost, he asks about Bishop. Suspended pending the police investigation.
The beating sends Paul’s world into freefall. Not only does his family want him to sue Bishop, the police are also hounding him to tell them what happened. No other witnesses are willing to come forward, so if Paul is not willing to testify, the entire case may fall apart. The newspaper keep calling him, and Philadelphia Phil has put together the pieces and figured out that his rival was the guy who got beat up and outed him on the show. Now he doesn’t have his one outlet. Worse than all of that though is that the Giants go on a losing streak without Bishop. What looked like a sure fired number 1 spot in their division is now in danger. The Eagles are coming up from behind, and things may all lead to the head to head match up in the final week of the season.
Big Fan is a movie about what happens when being a fan turns into something more obsessive. It reminded me of Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy where Robert DeNiro’s Rupert Pupkin thinks he has the stuff to be a stand up comedy legend and cannot tell that he is being constantly rejected. Like Pupkin, Paul is a legend only in his own mind. The Sports Dog radio show lets him air his views, at 1 in the morning, and because they praise him for his passion and insight, he thinks he is some kind of super fan. That Sal praises him as well, only feeds into his delusions. The only thing that breaks his delusions his mother yelling at him through the walls to keep it down. She is overbearing, but then again he is a 36 year old man living at home, so if she calls him pathetic, than she really is not that far off base. After he is beat up though, his world crumbles. He starts seeing how the world sees him, and he focuses all that pent up rage on Philadelphia Phil. On the day of the last game, he heads up to Philly to confront him.
Oswalt, who is best known as a stand-up comedian, and his role on the King of Queens, as well as his voice work in Ratatouille, does a wonderful job here as Paul. Isn’t it strange that the biggest sports fans seem to be people who never had a chance to play sports themselves? Paul is short, chubby and a little slow. His entire life is wrapped up in what happens to the Giants week after week. When they are winning, then he too is a winner. When they are losing, then he fells like a loser as well. What he definitely cannot deal with is that he is responsible for the Giants losing streak. Oswalt slowly unravels throughout the movie, trying to hold himself together until he can no longer take it any more.
Big Fan is a near perfect character study of a type of character we rarely see in the movies. That is obsessed with the Giants is not really the point. It could be anything. Some would undoubtedly point out that I am obsessed with movies. And while that’s true, I do stop well short of the type of obsession that Paul has. Without the Giants, he would have no reason to live. That’s just sad.