Wednesday, January 13, 2010


BIG FAN (Dir. Robert D. Siegel, 2009)

Paul, played by comedian Patton Oswalt, from Staten Island considers himself “the biggest New York Giants fan”. During his day job as a parking garage attendant he scribbles in a notebook a script of sorts of what he’s going to say on a sports call-in radio show that night. 

These rants are often interrupted by his mother (Marcia Jean Kurtz) who he still lives with. Paul regularly goes with his best friend (Kevin Corrigan) to Giant’s Stadium to sit on lawn chairs and watch the game on a old television balanced on the trunk of a car in the parking lot. From all of this you might surmise that Paul’s life is pretty pathetic.

Maybe so, but Paul doesn’t see it that way. He believes that he has a gift for opinionated gab and that his football fanaticism fulfills some purpose. This outlook gets put to the test when he and Corrigan spot Giants’ star linebacker Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm) and his entourage at a gas station. They follow him for the evening and end up at a Manhattan strip club. Paul approaches Bishop but the meeting goes down horribly resulting in our protagonist being brutally beaten by his favorite player.

Paul is hospitalized and Bishop is suspended from playing. Paul’s brother – a sleazy personal injury attorney - wants to wager a multi-million dollar suit against Bishop and a trench-coated cop (Matt Servitto) wants him to press charges, but Paul doesn’t want his favorite player out of the game.

As Paul recovers from the incident we see him going through the sad motions of his mundane existence – walking the streets, staring into the Hudson, and crying into his pillow to the strains of John Cale's “Big White Cloud”. He is soon back on the phone spouting out on the sports line, though this time it’s to defend Bishop against the taunts of his radio rival – “Philadelphia Phil” (Michael Rapaport).

Oswalt’s affecting performance is fearless. He fills nearly every frame with his puffy pathos alternating with the glow from his face when he’s most feels alive (i.e. pontificating over the airwaves). It’s a solid piece of acting that’s not without a certain comic sensibility, but stands foremost as fine dramatic work.

The same could be said of the film. As it comes from THE WRESTLER writer (and former editor of The Onion) Robert Siegel, you might expect social satire (and there is a bit here), but BIG FAN is more concerned with the inner crisis of character. When Paul paints his face the colors of the Eagles - the team he most hates - and travels to a local bar in Philadelphia to confront Rapaport, his leveling gaze and damned demeanor are a testament to misplaced passion.

Siegel and Oswalt’s film is both homage to Scorsese’s 70’s portraits of lost souls (most principally TAXI DRIVER) and its own modern anti-morality play. Whether you’re amused or disturbed at its display of delusion as life style choice, you most likely won’t look away.

Special Features: Though sadly lacking a commentary, there are some worthwhile extras on this disc. A Q & A of Oswalt and Siegel at Chicago's Music Box Theater is lively and entertaining, "Kevin Corrigan Recalls His Own 'Big Fan' Experience With Robert De Niro" is hilarious, and the over 10 minutes of outtakes are rougher and scrappier than most outtakes on DVDs but that's part of their authentic charm.

More later...


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