Unreal Movie Review: Big Fan


I’m a pretty intense sports fan – especially when it comes to the Gators – but at a certain point I know that it’s just a bunch of guys playing a game.  There are some people, however, who are unable to see sports from that perspective and let the outcome of games played by their favorite team dictate their lives.  You may know a few people like this; I definitely do.

In Big Fan, Patton Oswalt plays Paul Aufiero, a die-hard Giants fan whose life revolves around his favorite football team.  When he has an encounter with his favorite player, things go horribly wrong, and Paul is in a position where he has no choice but to re-evaluate his allegiance to his favorite player and team.  But Paul is unable to view sports as most of us do, and the results are nothing short of pathetic.


And I do mean pathetic.  Paul Aufiero is the epitome of loser.  He works as a parking attendant, stuck inside a lonely booth where he’s ridiculed on a daily basis by people who think the cost of parking to too high.  Paul lives at home with his mother, his tiny room decorated with Giants memorabilia and newspaper clippings.  He hasn’t had a date in years, hence his chronic masturbation, and the highlight of his night is calling into the local New York Giants sports talk radio show.  As “Paul from Staten Island,” Paul reads pre-written rants about the Giants into the telephone, often talking shots at another caller known as “Philadelphia Phil.”  Aside from his right hand, Paul’s only friend is another Giants-obsessed loser named Sal (Kevin Corrigan).

One night, Paul and Sal spot the Giants’ star defensive player, Quantrell Bishop, and at a gas station in Staten Island.  He and Sal follow Quantrell and his entourage to a strip club in Manhattan, but not before a quick stop for an apparent drug deal in Stapleton.  While at the strip club, both Paul and Sal neglect the stripper who sits on each of their laps as they’re totally fixated on Quantrell Bishop.  Paul and Sal eventually work up the courage to approach Quantrell.  Visibly very nervous, Paul reveals that he and Sal followed Quantrell and his boys all the way from Staten Island.  Pissed as all hell, Quantrell beats Paul so badly he is hospitalized for a little under a week.

Quantrell is suspended indefinitely from playing football, and the impact on the Giants is huge.  The rival Philadelphia Eagles are gaining ground in the division, and if Paul cooperates with the police, Quantrell will likely spend time in jail.


Now, for a normal person, the choice is clear: testify against Quantrell and punish him with the jail time he deserves, and if you’ve got brain damage (which Paul may have had), bring a civil suit seeking compensation for your injuries.  But Paul isn’t a normal person.  Since he’s such a loser, his only happiness comes from living vicariously through the Giants.  When they’re winning, he’s happy; when they’re losing, his practically suicidal.  For Paul, the decision is a Catch 22, and his inability to prioritize makes him all the more pathetic.

Big Fan is written and directed by Robert Siegel, who also wrote The Wrestler, so I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising that Big Fan is a depressing film.  Patton Oswalt is a pretty funny guy, and although Big Fan is considered by some to be a black comedy, it’s difficult to laugh at a guy whose life is so crappy.  It’s not just the fact that Paul’s life sucks, it’s that everything that could go wrong does, and he continually finds himself completely humiliated.  When he calls into the local Giants sports talk radio show, Paul’s mother yells at him from the other room to quiet down.  In a cringe-worthy moment, Paul’s mother also knows tells Paul that she knows he’s been masturbating from all the crumbled tissues she sees in his wastebasket.  And of course, Paul is beaten to within an inch of his life by his favorite player.  Kudos to Patton Oswalt for playing a demented loser so well, but the story of an obsessed Giants fan is far more pathetic and depressing than it is funny.


Kevin Corrigan turns in a solid performance as Sal, and Gino Cafarelli is terrific as Paul’s brother Jeff, but Big Fan belongs to Patton Oswalt.  His talents extend far beyond being a funny guy and decent stand up comic, as his acting chops are on fill display in Big Fan.  I totally bought into his character and his struggle with the decision whether or not to help put his favorite player behind bars.  In the end, Big Fan isn’t funny enough to be considered a good comedy, and it’s far too depressing to qualify for multiple viewings.  As the portrait of a sports-obsessed loser, though, Big Fan is a success, and Patton Oswalt deserves acclaim for his role.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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