(2009) dir. Robert D. Siegel
Written and directed by first-time director Robert D. Siegel, who had written the Darren Aronofsky film The Wrestler (2008), Big Fan is another glimpse into the dark side of American sportsdom. This time, rather than dwelling on a tragic hero washed-up wrestler, we have the anti-hero never-was, self-proclaimed, “biggest New York Giants fan” in the world, the horribly pathetic “Paul from Long Island” as he is known to his favorite call-in radio show, played with pathos by Patton Oswalt.
Oswalt, a stand-up comedian, writer, and actor, has been riding particularly high since he was tapped to voice the character of Remy in Ratatouille (2007), but who has been performing and developing a fan base for two decades. Here he plays a pathetic schmuck, though a likeable enough fellow. He lives with his mom on Long Island, works as a tollbooth collector in a parking garage and lives for the NY Giants football team, tailgating and carousing with his best pal Sal, even though they follow the games on the radio in the parking lot of the stadium.
When he notices his favorite player, the quarterback for the Giants, in his home town, he follows him to a strip club in Manhattan, and while trying to shake hands and bow down before his idol, he winds up pissing him off and getting beaten within an inch of his life. But Paul does not want to sue, he doesn’t even want to press charges, for fear of what will happen to the Giants without their star QB.
Through much of the film, I was kind of wondering exactly why I rented this film. It has the darkness and criticism of American sports culture, and as pathetic as it paints Paul, it doesn’t condemn him. Is he a noble idiot? His family is kind yet hateful as well, his kvetching mother, his greasy personal injury attorney brother and his over-tanned former secretary bimbo wife. Yet they care about him.
I don’t know. It’s not like a horribly-produced or horribly acted film. Quite the contrary. But it’s also somewhat lost in the realms of what it means, what it really is saying. Because it’s easy enough to say that Paul is a mixture of loser and loser and sort of okay guy, but what does it really say about American culture or life? Fandom? Sports gangsters? For me, it spoke of little. And reinforced my question as to why I prioritized it in my queue.