‘Big Fan’ explores the isolated world of a rabid sports nut

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Sunday, September 20, 2009 9:18am
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Paul is in his mid-30s, lives with his mom on Staten Island and works as a parking-lot attendant. He has no idea what he is, yet he has an identity: He’s a New York Giants fan.

Paul, played by standup comedian Patton Oswalt, is the central figure of “Big Fan,” a gritty little number from “The Wrestler” writer Robert D. Siegel.

Oswalt and Siegel definitely know their type: Paul is locked into his world, sees no need to expand his boundaries and rejects with disdain the hints of normalcy offered him by his relatives.

He comes alive at night when he calls in to a sportstalk radio show, assuming a persona full of sass and self-confidence. That is, until his mother shushes him from the next room — she’d like to get some sleep.

Paul’s radio rants are deeply impressive to his football buddy, Sal (Kevin Corrigan), who compliments his friend after an impassioned, stick-it-to-’em diatribe.

“Well,” Paul says modestly, “I feel like it needed to be said.”

In the course of a moody story line, Paul and Sal accidentally come into contact with their favorite Giants player at a strip club. The encounter turns violent, an event that throws Paul’s life (and the Giants’ season) off course.

I couldn’t entirely believe the aftermath of this incident, but Siegel uses it as a way of exploring the fan’s psychological intensity. I think he’s onto something else, too, something about the way the arrested adolescence of an entire culture has turned people into face-painting, colors-wearing fans — in the world of politics, for instance, at least as much as the world of sports.

If the film were a little more fleshed out, this might have been developed into something substantial. Siegel’s ambitions are smaller than that, and “Big Fan” works with a limited collection of characters living in a grimy world.

Sound like “The Wrestler”? Yes, but this movie is more daring. Where “The Wrestler” held fast to ancient sentiments, “Big Fan” challenges the audience with some truly unexpected twists.

Patton Oswalt, the squat comic who also did the voice of Remy in “Ratatouille,” plays this one straight. He’s completely convincing — you can tell Oswalt has listened to a lot of sportstalk.

He’ll introduce the 5 p.m. show of “Big Fan” at the Egyptian theater on Friday (Oswalt is appearing as a stand-up in Seattle that night).

Face paint is optional.

“Big Fan”

Stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt plays it straight, as a grown man whose sole purpose in life is his devotion to the New York Giants. This gritty little number (from the writer of “The Wrestler,” Robert D. Siegel) tracks the aftermath of the fan’s violent encounter with an idolized player, which does not turn out the way we might expect.

Rated: R for language, nudity, subject matter

Showing: Egyptian

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