Eye For Film >> Movies >> Big Fan (2009) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Paul is a Big Fan in every sense of the word. A dough ball of a man, he still lives at home, presumably because his car park ticket booth job means he has no option - but when it comes to supporting his New York Giants, he is the leader of the pack. No matter that he and his best buddy Sal can’t afford to actually go to the games, they sit in the car park with a telly rigged up to the car battery.
Even when his team aren’t playing, he’s thinking about them, scribbling down his thoughts on a notepad in his ticket booth, waiting for the dead of night when he becomes “Paul of Staten Island” a well-known sports talk show caller, who revels in his long-distance phone rivalry with Philadelphia Phil and who spends all day longing for the moment when he can tell the host: “I can’t tell you how SICK I AM.”
Illusions are complex things and they are also fragile entities. When Paul (Patton Oswalt) and Sal (Kevin Corrigan) see the Giants top player Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm) while they’re out in their car they decide to follow him. Not for any big reason, just because they are big fans.
Trouble is, Quantrell is a man on a not-altogether-clean mission and a collision course is set. The question is, what would you do if you’d just been savagely beaten by someone you idolise? Are you willing to really take one for the team?
Former editor of satirical mag The Onion Robert Siegel, here directs for the first time. He also penned The Wrestler and is a man who is interested in obsession – and how all-consuming and destructive it can be. Clearly influenced by the grit of Scorsese, he plays around with our expectations. Paul may, in some ways, be as obsessed as Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, but Siegel spins this character into the darkest of comedy rather than darkest of deeds. The fact this centres on American football may put British audiences off, but it shouldn’t, it could be any sport’s team Paul supports, the important thing is the depth of his commitment.
Oswalt is the perfect pick as Paul. An established comic in the States, he has a whip-smart sense of timing and manages to keep Paul’s character accessible, but edgy, so that we never quite know what he will do next. Marcia Jean Kurtz also deserves special mention as Paul’s mother – obsessive in her own way and stealing every scene she is in.
There are some problems with the film. Several of the characters are rather thinly drawn and there is one particularly bad use of montage – these seem to be spreading like a virus from television and must be stopped. Still, Siegel finds joy in contrast. Paul may in many ways be the ultimate ‘loser’ but he feels like a ‘winner’, so this becomes not just a study of obsession but of the essence of self-delusion and its importance in many people's lives. The writer/director isn’t out to condemn him, but to explore his motivations - we may not like Paul but by the end of this we’re rooting for him.Reviewed on: 24 Feb 2010