Directed by: Robert D. Siegel
Written by: Robert D. Siegel (screenplay)
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rapaport, and Marcia Jean Kurtz
We all have our obsessions. Whether it be a sport, a hobby, a person or all three, each of us has something in our lives that we couldn’t get out of it if we wanted to.
This is the subject of Robert D. Siegel’s excellent, truthful, and unflinching Big Fan. You may know Siegel’s previous writing work from 2008’s The Wrestler. He doesn’t let the sympathy that partially diluted his character in that film interfere with his work here. By keeping the camera low-key and the subject front-and-center, Mr. Siegel creates a portrait of obsession that is hilarious, sad, and disturbing.
Patton Oswalt, a comedian further showcasing his acting talent, plays Paul Aufiero, a die-hard New York Giants fan. He and his friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) go to Giants Stadium for every home game, not to go inside and watch but to sit outside their clunker car and listen to it on the radio.
It is small touches like that that really helps the film stick in your brain after it’s finished. Where most directors would paint Paul as a sympathetic figure, Mr. Aufiero does not. We see the pain he causes his mother (Marcia Jean Kurtz) and the rest of his family by still living at home. He’s given his life no other purpose than the Giants.
Some of the best scenes in the movie are Paul calling into a radio show to spout off preconceived taunts that he scribbled out beforehand at his lowly job as a tollbooth worker. He’s kind of a celebrity amongst listeners of the show, yelling out insults at people like Philadelphia Phil (Michael Rapaport) who cheer for other teams.
After Siegal sets up Paul’s life, he predictably needs to throw a wrench in it. While eating pizza with Sal one day, they spot Giant’s quarterback Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm) They follow him to a strip club and approach him. Paul admires him in an almost stalker-like fashion, but Bishop does not involve the authorities. Instead, he puts Paul in the hospital.
After waking up after a three-day coma, Paul is pummeled on all sides by relatives, friends, and Philadelphia Phil. He can’t take the fact that someone he admires so much beat the shit out of him, and he snaps.
This is where the film really succeeds. By refusing to paint a pretty picture of a man wronged, Siegal, along with an excellent performance by Mr. Oswalt, makes a film both honest and hilarious that refuses to mince words and offer simple conclusions.