Robert Siegel’s Big Fan has only one thing going for it: a brave performance by comedian Patton Oswalt. But because Oswalt plays such an unflinchingly sociopathic loser, the film becomes hard to care about.
Paul Aufiero (Oswalt) is little more than a man-child with a pathological interest in the New York Giants’ performance. He and his friend Sal (the terrific and underused Kevin Corrigan) go to every Giants game, but sit in the parking lot and watch on television. They eat and drink junk food like children (“Anything in a green bottle is gonna kill you.”), and when Paul isn’t watching the game, he’s working as a parking lot attendant, crafting carefully-worded diatribes he can spout off during a local sports radio show. Paul lives with his mother, and his room looks like a child’s, capped off by a poster of his quarterback hero above his bed.
But when Paul and Sal see the player at a local gas station, they decide to follow him into town to a strip club where Paul misspeaks, causing the QB to pound him into a coma. Once awake, Paul’s mania becomes clearer: less interested in the doctor’s report than Sal’s game updates, Paul fakes amnesia to prevent a local cop (Matt Servitto) from getting an incriminating statement that will keep the QB off the field, and the Giants out of the win column.
Paul’s relatives seem to accept his life, making the same protestations about his nowhere existence at family gatherings but never pressing him to change. Once injured, his lawyer brother Jeff (Gino Cafarelli) pushes him to sue, but Paul won’t hear of it. Fixated on making sure the Giants win their crucial few remaining games, he shuts down any sensible input. And with an arch-enemy like “Philadelphia Phil” taunting him nightly on the radio, Paul ends up acting out in a drastic and foolish way.
Siegel does a nice job as a first-time director, though the story is so scant that we’re treated to multiple montages and drawn-out scenes that seem to pad the film’s run time. And Oswalt makes such a compelling schlub, you hate that the character is ultimately so unlikable. When Paul sees an article about the outcome of his choices, there is a misguided pride that creeps across his face; he knows what he’s done and yet he cannot tell anyone for fear of being known as The Guy Whose Hero Pummeled Him.
With its focus on a truly unpleasant character (no matter how well-played) and a leftover sense of wanting, Big Fan is ultimately lacking. To quote Sal: “You don’t go for 2 when you could have gone for 4.”
(Big Fan is currently available on DVD and Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” service, which can be viewed via an XBOX 360.)