Big Fan (2009)
The directorial debut from the screenwriter of The Wrestler follows another down-on-his-luck loser. Patton Oswalt gives a surprisingly dark and affecting performance as Paul, a 35-year-old tollbooth worker that still lives with his mother. Paul’s life is devoted to his favorite sports team, the New York Giants. He spends his evenings meticulously planning his call-in statements to the nightly sports radio show. He’s so devoted to his team that when Paul gets brutally beaten by his favorite Giants player he blames himself. The player gets suspended and the Giants start piling up losses, and Paul can’t deal with the crushing guilt he feels. Big Fan is an intriguing exploration of how absorbed people can get with fandom; I always thought it a bit odd when people refer to a team’s accomplishments with “we” like they had something to do with it. Paul’s fragile world is coming apart and he breaks down with it. Obviously, Paul has a few screws loose in order to make him unpredictable, which gives the last twenty minutes some serious unease. Paul goes undercover as a Philadelphia Eagles fan (his disgust at putting on the enemy jersey is palpable) to hunt out his gloating sports radio nemesis Philadelphia Phil. Big Fan is occasionally funny in an under-your-breath kind of way, but really it’s more of a small-scale psychological study on a hapless individual whose religion is sports and who feels he has sinned before his almighty God. At a mere 86 minutes, the movie doesn’t press too hard into the twisted psychology, nor does Paul leave much of a dent as a character as the film doesn’t make judgment on his obsessive behavior. This isn’t as poignant as The Wrestler, pure and simple. Yet, Big Fan is buoyed by a strong performance by Oswalt and some interesting insights into a flawed fan willing to go all the way for his team.
Nate’s Grade: B