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Big Fan (2009)

February 1, 2010

7/10 Unhealthy Obsessions

Not your typical sports movie, and that’s one of the many reasons I dug it.

Big Fan is about a single, middle-aged shlub from Staten Island with a dead-end job as a parking attendant, a seemingly permanent room at his mom’s place, and one passion in life – the New York Giants. One day, this guy manages to meet his favorite Giants player and through a course of events happens to get his ass beat to a pulp by the said star quarterback. So that’s where he’s at, press charges against his hero and risk his team’s chances at a Super Bowl title or let it slide and be the loyal fan he takes so much pride in being.

Not a true story or anything, not like Eli Manning is going around putting his fans in comas behind closed doors, but a pretty solid premise all the same if you ask me. Nothin’ fancy, just an ordinary guy dealing with a shitty situation. Simple yet complicated, a tough balance to strike that’s a thing of beauty when done right.

This here is the directorial debut and second screenplay by Robert D. Siegel, who’s first screenplay was none other than The Wrestler. Not too shabby, Rob, not too shabby at all.

From a writing standpoint, Big Fan is a step up for Siegel. Well, the problem with The Wrestler was that the story wasn’t anything new and the best dialogue was all the ad-libbed stuff. Wasn’t bad, but there was room to grow. This time around, you can tell he’s starting to find a voice for himself instead of just letting the actors do the talking for him. The dialogue’s better, the people are more believable and the end product is a really dark dramedy that at times borders on depressing but for the most part does a great job of keeping you as interested in what’s going on as much as the characters are. Only problem is that it almost takes a nose dive into tragically dark, barely pulling out before crashing and burning. 

The plot is also pretty unpredictable to the point where I really had no idea what was going on in the third Act until it was staring me in the face. Siegel doesn’t outright tell you what’s going on in his characters’ heads or what their motivations are, their actions speak for themselves and it’s always fantastic to come across that kind of subtlety in movies. Although, this vibe of keeping the audience in the dark can also make for a painfully uncomfortable experience to sit through when you think you know what’s coming and are expecting the worst. Not so much a complaint as an observation.

Script’s got its flaws, but good job, Siegel, all the same. 

And our big fan, Paul Afiero, is played by one of my favorite comedians out there right now, Patton Oswalt. If you know Patton, you know he’s one funny mother-effer. If you don’t know Patton, go YouTube Patton and nod to yourself in agreement that he is indeed one funny mother-effer. But all the same, Paul Afiero isn’t Patton, at least not Patton you probably didn’t just YouTube. He can be a funny dude at times, but not piss-your-knickers-from-laughing-so-hard funny. Paul’s just a average joe with a serious jones for the Giants and Patton fits the bill surprisingly well.

Can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but he pulls off the role of endearing loser pretty naturally without making you feel sorry for the guy. That probably sounds like a back-handed compliment, but considering that I’m sure Patton is nothing like Paul in real life, I assure you, it’s a front-handed compliment all the way (if that’s even a thing). His life and affairs aren’t exactly anything to admire, but it wasn’t long before I found myself legitimately caring about him and seeing his situation in a whole new non-pathetic light.

Good protagonist all in all. 

Also features some pretty entertaining side roles by Michael Rapaport as Afiero’s arch-nemesis of sorts and Kevin Corrigan as Paul’s best friend (aka: “those guys from every movie ever”). 

Been meaning to get around to this one for a while now and even though it’s probably not gonna linger long in the memory bank for too long after this review, it’s great to see an awesome dude like Oswalt shine in the spotlight. If you’re going into this expecting a laugh riot or a formulaic feel-good yarn a la The Blind Side, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed, but hey, it’s something new. Siegel’s not quite there yet, but he’s getting there and Big Fan is a big step in the right direction.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2010 4:07 am

    Patton Oswalt is just one of those people I love to hate. And I mean really hate. I’m not sure why, and it’s typical of my character. But despite all the praise, he kept me from seeing this film. I suppose I’ll finally have to act like a normal person and put that aside to check this out. It really sounds like a film I would love.

    • February 1, 2010 8:22 am

      The thing is that it’s not Patton Oswalt doing stand-up, he’s taken a note out of Robin William’s book of toning it down instead of going for the laughs. But still, if you hate the guy, not sure how much I’m gonna convince you won’t here. Good movie though, worth checking it if it seems like your thing.

  2. nothatwasacompliment permalink
    February 1, 2010 9:52 am

    i didn’t like this one too much. too many unlikable characters for my taste.

    also, it’s funny that you refer to the athlete as the ‘star quarterback’. as i was watching, i got confused because i also thought he was the quarterback, but they kept saying his absence from the team would really hurt the Giants’ defense. finally i realized that all the references to him being a QB was that those were his initials. he was, in fact, a defensive end.

    • February 1, 2010 9:57 am

      wow, that was awfully confusing. thought it was just part of the character being a quarterback and having the initials “QB”. that one could’ve been clearer.

  3. February 1, 2010 4:24 pm

    Looking forward to finding this at a RedBox. Never came to theatres here.

  4. February 1, 2010 8:12 pm

    Trailer was pretty obvious this movie wasn’t going to be too much on the funny side. Odd little movie…

  5. February 3, 2010 1:04 am

    I agree, a step in the right direction. I don’t need a laugh a minute, but I did think it started a little slowly. Luckily the second half made up for it with some really quality material (IE the root beer bit).

    My favorite scene was definitely the end, when they are talking about the schedule (“This is going to be cake!” and “Were going to be in the parking lot for that game!”). Was that as funny as I thought it was?

    Also, Kevin Corrigan was great as sort of a “Losers sidekick”.

    • February 3, 2010 9:49 am

      Yeah, that was a good way to end the movie. And Kevin Corrigan, man, that guy is in everything.

      Thought the scene in the bathroom at the end was pretty awesome, too. That could have been awful.

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