Starring: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rapaport
Writer/Director: Robert Siegel
Company: First Independent Pictures
Football fans, for lack of a better term, are completely insane. To them, the sport is a religion and even on days where the wind chill would kill a polar bear, they are out in the stadium shirtless, all for the sake of showing off their team’s colors. Robert Siegel’s (The Wrestler) directorial debut, Big Fan, tackles this obsession head on in a film that is not only darkly funny, but also serious and uncomfortable at the same time.

Patton Oswalt stars as Paul Aufiero, a 35 year old parking garage worker who still lives with his mother and has no prospects for any kind of hopeful future. He is also a ridiculously hardcore fan of the NFL team the New York Giants, getting what joy he can out of life through them and by calling into a local radio show and ranting about how great they are, much to the chagrin of a fellow caller (and Philadelphia Eagles fan) known only as Philadelphia Phil (Michael Rapaport). Along with his best friend Sal (the vastly underrated Kevin Corrigan), they travel every Sunday to Giants Stadium, joining in on the tailgate party but watching the game on a TV in Paul’s truck. One night, they spot Giants QB and Paul’s idol Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm) at a gas station and follow him into the city to a club. Through a misunderstanding, Quantrell attacks Paul and puts him in the hospital. In the aftermath, Paul’s lawyer brother Jeff (Gino Cafarelli) and others try to get Paul to press charges and put Quantrell in jail…but if he does this, then the Giants lose their chance at the Super Bowl. What’s a Big Fan like him to do?

Big Fan is the personification of dark comedy. At times, you will laugh and it’s a good time, and others…not so much. The character of Paul is complicated. You want to feel sorry for him, as he’s quickly headed towards 40 with no direction and no desire to grow up. He’s content with his crappy life, with his mother doing everything for him, and instead of trying, he just hides in his football fandom. In short, he’s the kind of person you would associate with the stereotype of a Dungeons and Dragons nerd. He calls into the radio show every night just to read off rants about the Giants, which is his one reprieve from his crappy life. That’s where people like him and know him. He’s not the lowly parking garage attendant, he’s “Paul from Staten Island”.

At the same time, he takes his obsession way too far. Football is all he cares about, the Giants especially. When he and Sal spot Quantrell at the gas station, they aren’t even there, they are across the street. Instead of saying hi, they follow him to a club and they stalk him inside. Paul is not the healthy kind of fan; no healthy fan would do this. There is obviously something messed up there.

Big Fan is an absolutely fascinating movie, and a great directorial debut from Siegel. Patton Oswalt completely owns his role as Paul, playing the complex role far better than anyone could have anticipated, as he is primarily known as a nerdy stand-up comedian. Corrigan as his best friend Sal does great work once again and adds another great role in his character actor career. Rapaport is mainly a voice only role as the antagonizing Eagles fan who calls into the New York radio show, but he’s hilarious and his kind of fan is identifiable. Everyone who’s ever been at a sports bar or sports event has undoubtedly run across this kind of loudmouth fan before. Rapaport plays him to perfection.

The big conflict in the film is within Paul; does he sell out his favorite team and cause them to lose their best player, or does he keep his mouth shut and let an obviously volatile person go free just because he’s a star athlete? This felt like a refreshing plot, and it’s actually more complex than one would think. It also shows just how hardcore some people can be about their sports.

Big Fan is a character film, a short 88 minute movie about sports and the people who obsess over them. The strong performances of Oswalt and Corrigan coupled with an interesting premise and intriguing ideas make this movie definitely worth a watch…and make you think twice about crossing a hardcore football fan ever again.

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