Judge Mike Rubino saves all his soy sauce packets.
"How do you get a concussion when you got no brains?"
The desire for competition is part of human nature. Survival of the fittest—that sort of thing. Sometimes, for whatever reason, Man cannot compete. He's relegated to the sidelines. He's a fan.
Facts of the Case
Paul (Patton Oswalt, The King of Queens) is a die hard fan of the New York Giants. He listens to sports talk radio, and calls so often that he's practically a regular. He and his buddy Sal (Kevin Corrigan, Pineapple Express) drive to Giants Stadium for every game, and sit in the parking lot with a 13-inch TV because they don't have tickets. He's a big fan.
But when Paul tracks down his idol, Giants quarterback Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm), at a night club in Manhattan, he oversteps his bounds. Quantrell attacks Paul, sending him to the hospital. Now, he must decide between ruining Quantrell's career in the name of justice, or taking one for the team and enduring immense personal pain.
Big Fan is an insightful caricature of America's obsession with professional sports. Beyond that, it's a funny and dark character study that's both well cast and shot.
The film was written and directed by Robert Siegel, who also wrote the screenplay for The Wrestler. The two films share similar blue collar atmospheres, but while Randy the Ram, unhappy with his station in life, sought to reclaim former glory, Paul is perfectly content being the master of his domain. Paul spends his evenings working the booth at a parking garage, plotting his call-in speeches for the local radio sports program. In his mind, he's a weekend warrior for his beloved Giants. They wouldn't win without him in the parking lot.
His realization that he's not actually a part of the team comes after a night of obsessed tracking. The film quickly, and with great efficiency, switches gears from light-hearted pity to utter tragedy. Quantrell is suspended and the Giants start losing. Paul, racked with guilt over his team taking the fall, refuses to say anything about the assault. In our eyes, he's a fool. In his eyes, he's a martyr.
Patton Oswalt is tremendous in this film. He's completely believable, and even a tad sympathetic, especially during the final act's surprising twist. While we may see Paul as pathetic or disturbed, Oswalt is able to lighten the mood with plenty of subtle humor. Those around him are excellent as well. Corrigan plays Sal with the utmost devotion (I loved his speech about all-natural root beer), and Michael Rapaport as Philadelphia Phil was a no-brainer. Siegel has populated his film with a cast of archetypes that, despite their exaggerations, come off as wholly credible.
This is Siegel's directorial debut, and he does an admirable job. The film is exceedingly raw, right down to the spastic editing. He shot Big Fan in the most pedestrian of styles, with plenty of handheld camera work and naturalistic framing. It works very well, and echoes a similar look and feel to that of Darren Aronofsky's work in The Wrestler.
If there is any complaint at all to the look of the film, it's the DVD transfer, which is muddy and dark. Much of the film was shot at night, and the picture becomes reduced to blue or dark orange blobs with little definition. The daylight scenes fair much better. The sound, on the other hand, is quiet but adequate. For an independent movie, the quality here is just sufficient.
The DVD comes with a handful of supplements, including some DVD-Rom features (remember those?). The best of the bunch is a Q&A session with Robert Siegel and Patton Oswalt. The two are hilarious and insightful, making for a featurette that's much more efficient than a feature-length commentary. There's also a grainy video of Kevin Corrigan telling his own "big fan" story about meeting Robert DeNiro. The disc also includes some brief outtakes, a trailer, and some downloadable content. I'm not really sure why there's a 25MB PDF of the fake Quantrell poster from the film, but it's there along with an MP3 of Siegel and Oswalt's appearance on NPR's "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross. Overall, a nice selection of supplements.
Big Fan is a thoughtful character study about a man who takes his professional sports a little too seriously. The film may be dark (both thematically and technically), but its solid cast, strong writing, and interesting take on sports fanaticism makes it worth recommending.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
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