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In his directorial debut, Robert Siegel shows that his true talent
still lies in his writing. The tone of Big Fan feels very similar to
Siegel's past writing venture, The Wrestler. In both films Siegel
proves that he is able to craft a story that feels so rooted in the
real world that at times it can feel as if you are simply a fly on the
wall watching these events unfold. The only problem with this is that
the real world can be boring, and without the direction of Darren
Aronofsky to help bolster it, Big Fan occasionally slips into this
Big Fan follows the life of Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt), a devout New York Giants fan, and parking garage attendant. Paul plods along through his life, living with his mother (Marcia Jean Kurtz) in Staten Island, working nights at the parking garage, and finishing everyday by cranking one out before he falls asleep. We soon see that the only thing that Paul really cares about is football, or more specifically, the New York Giants. Paul meticulously crafts rants about why his Giants are "destined" for glory and calls in to a local late-night sports radio show where he is a known contributor and enemy of Philadelphia Eagles fan, Philadelphia Phil. Paul seems happy with this life and only asks that come Sunday he can put down another win for the Giants. Things then take a turn for Paul as a night out with his best friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) results in a sighting of his favorite player Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm). The two follow Bishop through Staten Island eventually coming to a Manhattan strip club. In the club Paul finally builds up the guts to go over and talk to Bishop and in a drunken state Bishop misinterprets something Paul says and beats him to a pulp. The rest of the film follows Paul and his struggle to figure out his life as everyone around him tries to get him to sue, and imprison his hero, all while his Giants stumble and fall from their path to "destiny".
The acting in this film is its true saving grace. Oswalt proves that he is so much more than the voice of the rat in Ratatouille. He becomes Paul, leaving the audience completely convinced that the Giants truly are this man's reason for living. Also of note is Kevin Corrigan. Corrigan is continuing to be "that guy" in movies. He is probably best known as Eddie on TV series Grounded for Life, but he has also popped up in movies like True Romance, Goodfellas, The Departed, and more recently Superbad and Pineapple Express. The guy is a great actor and really deserves a lot more credit than he gets. With the character of Sal, he really is the only character to stick by Paul throughout the entire film, and he is completely believable the entire time. Not once is the audience left to wonder why Sal is supporting every decision Paul makes. Corrigan never makes us feel that he is just the token best friend in the movie. Sal supports Paul because that is who he is and we never doubt that. Corrigan truly deserves to get a lead role in a film so that he can really show people what he can do.
The comparisons between Big Fan and The Wrestler are unavoidable. Both were made on a small budget, take place in lower middle class urban neighborhoods, and deal with sports. Unfortunately for Siegel, where Aronofsky succeeded with The Wrestler, Big Fan seems to falter. The direction is not bad; it just causes the film to sag in spots. I was bored during some long stretches of the movie that made me feel like I was watching the most mundane moments of Paul's day. The visuals often leave something to be desired, making the viewer feel like the film was a few steps away from being great.
Big Fan manages to combine just the right amount of comedy in what is most definitely a drama. The acting is surprisingly good, with both Oswalt and Corrigan turning in great performances. Siegel shows us again that he is a great writer and has a gift when it comes to crafting believable real life dialogue. The direction causes the movie to be boring in some parts most likely due to this being Siegel's first outing. Even if you are not a football fan, which I am not, you will be able to enjoy this movie. And maybe next time you hear a crazed fan on a radio call-in show, you will feel a little differently.
Oswalt plays a guy you might call a loser, but his character wouldn't
agree. He's not as over-the-top into loserdom as DiNiro in "King of
Comedy." He's not delusional, in other words, just passionate. His team
means more than anything to him, and if they are doing OK, he is
content. In his world, he has status, and he's just not interested in
anything outside that world.
I was surprised to see real acting going on, not comedy. (I won't say "just" comedy - that's hard as hell and takes real talent.) Nothing milked for laughs, nothing that broke the boundaries of the world of the story. A reviewer said Oswalt was "fearless", and I agree. William Goldman wrote of stars that you can never make their parts cool enough for them. That's why so many movies are so terrible. Oswalt has never seemed that interested in being cool. Instead, he dives into his character, as sympathetic or unsympathetic as the moment requires. Not a shtick: character.
It is a low budget production, but I felt it was adequate. The production values didn't hurt. And it is funny, just not 3 jokes / page of script.
Paul is in his mid-thirties, single, and still living at home with his
mother. He works as a parking lot attendant in New York, and is content
to sit in his booth at night writing down passionate, articulate rants,
so that when he goes home he can call a local radio sports show and
prove his fanaticism for the Giants, his favorite football team.
Paul is played by Patton Oswalt, one of the funniest stand-up comedians alive, and what he does in this film is really quite remarkable. He creates a fully convincing and pathetic loser, and is unafraid to reveal all the character's lowest points. If this were an Adam Sandler comedy we'd probably have scenes showing us how misunderstood and sweet Paul is, so we can understand that he's the one we're meant to root for, but Oswalt's Paul isn't so cleancut. He treats his family like crap and has terrible mood swings; he only seems truly happy when he's in his element: either witnessing a Giants win or ranting to strangers on the radio. The fact that he must write his speeches down beforehand, and preps himself for hours in advance of calling, says everything.
Paul gets in trouble when he spots a Giants quarterback at a gas station in a shady neighborhood and follows him into a NYC nightclub. After an awkward introduction, Paul makes the mistake of mentioning that he's been following the sports star and his entourage for the past few hours, and the drunken athlete reacts by beating him senseless. Three days later Paul is hospitalized and the police want his statement -- but he suddenly "can't remember" anything that happened, desperately hoping the Giants won't be forced to suspend their star athlete. But that's just the beginning of his problems.
Big Fan is the directorial debut of Robert D. Siegel, who wrote last year's sports-themed The Wrestler. Both movies concern the plights of apparent losers, the biggest difference being Mickey Rourke's 'Ram' actually had a life at one point, whereas Paul's existence is experienced vicariously. Everyone around him tries to offer a better life, whether it's jobs or moving into his own place, but he firmly rejects them. In Paul's eyes, this is his life. He is perfectly content to be discontent, and the movie's lack of transformation for its character will undoubtedly alienate some viewers.
And, put bluntly, Big Fan is not as strong or poignant as The Wrestler. Siegel is not as capable a director as Darren Aronofsky, and the story -- despite clocking in at under an hour and a half -- does tend to meander a few times. But it is endearingly bleak, honest and real, and kept afloat by Oswalt's fascinating performance, which is hard to shake off even after the credits are over.
Patton Oswalt plays Paul Aufiero, the star of Big Fan, an indie drama
about a New York Giants football fanatic. He eats and breaths blue and
red and wants nothing more than for his team to go all the way. He
works as a parking garage attendant where he takes money, opens the
gate, and prepares his thoughts for the night's radio broadcast where
he is Paul from Staten Island. He calls to give his opinion about the
team, how they will win, and tells another fellow caller, Philadelphia
Phil, a proud Eagles fan, that he can basically go eat his own shorts.
He lives at home with his mother where he is bombarded with ideas and images of a better life thanks to his well of brother (Gino Cafarelli), a lawyer, and his brother-in-law who keeps after Paul with a job offer that he doesn't want. Paul's only haven is with his best and only friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan). They share a love for the game and a love for their team. One night they spot Quantrell Bishop, Paul's favorite Giant. His idol of the gridiron. They see him coming out of a shady spot on Staten Island and decide to follow him all the way into a Manhattan night club. When they decide to approach they are met by a hostile Bishop who thinks they are stalkers. He beats Paul into the hospital where he is met by a barrage of questions from investigators and his lawyer brother. Now he is faced with the decision of turning a blind eye to what happened or pressing charges against his favorite player, likely causing his team a division title.
A round of applause to Oswalt for his performance. He really captured the spirit of his character. I am sure that there are many people out there similar to him (I can think of a few I know who border on this line of fan-hood). Oswalt is a stand-up comedian by trade, but lately has been dabbling with some acting roles. He was the voice of Remy in Pixar's Ratatouille, one of their better casting jobs, and I particularly liked his cameo on Comedy Central's "Reno 911" where he played a "gamer" like those from "World of Warcraft" and "Dungeon's and Dragons". Here he steps way out of his comfort zone and does so effortlessly.
This is a Robert D. Siegel's directorial debut. After writing the screenplay for last year's The Wrestler, he dives into a different sport: the sport of, well, watching sports. He presents us with another tragic character. Paul is someone who cares only for his team. Not himself, his family, or his future. He doesn't care for his job and he doesn't care about how he lives. He is a special kind of man.
Siegel does a nice job behind the camera, but his strength is clearly on paper. He does a great job establishing background for his characters. We know that Paul has been a die hard sports fan for a long time. We know that he has worked the same job and has lived the same routine for years and years. Little things like his mother saving Chinese food condiments and the cluttering of Paul's bedroom walls with sports paraphernalia give these characters a history. One that we can relate to and have seen before.
This is a nice little film that has an excellent story with an even better ending. I really enjoyed the struggle that Paul goes through with all of the different pressures around him, trying to persuade him to go against his will. An excellent achievement for both Siegler and Oswalt.
Simplicity is a rare commodity in today's fast moving, conglomerate
world, but for Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt) there's only one thing that
matters in his life. Everything else is irrelevant in comparison and it
isn't his wife, or his child, or his family in general; it is the
American Football team the New York Giants. As the self-proclaimed
'biggest Giants fan ever' Paul lives, breathes, shouts, screams, and
sleeps everything about the team. He even situates a poster featuring
his favourite player Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm), the Giants
quarterback, above his single-bed. But when an opportunity arises to
meet Quantrell, the player mistakes Paul for a stalker and violently
strikes out causing his instant hospitalisation. Once released he has
to come to terms with the fact that his simple, linear life is now
starting to crash around him, like a fumble in the final moments of the
Super Bowl, as his family, the media and the team all want a piece of
the Giants 'Big Fan'.
Written and directed by Robert Siegel on a minimal budget, 'Big Fan' is a surprising independent gem that attains the majority of its prowess from an outstanding offensive performance by Patton Oswalt as the man who lives for the Giants. His support is monumental as he travels week in and week out to merely sit in the car-park outside Meadowlands Stadium and watch the game on a portable TV with his right-hand fan Sal (Kevin Corrigan). While he spends his job as a parking attendant writing up witty remarks to use on the Sports Dogs nightly call-in Sports show of which one participant called Philadelphia Phil becomes Paul's nemesis over-time. There banter over the airwaves becomes one of the biggest driving forces of Paul's life while he isn't thinking about the next game. But after the assault takes place, his loyalty, and in turn his life starts to become torn apart. His family want him to turn the event in an opportunity to sue the player; the local authorities want him to press charges against quarterback, while the team are on a losing streak as Quantrell has been suspended while the investigation is on-going. All the while, all Paul wants is to support the team and nothing more. He doesn't have the greed and the ambition that others do. To him the Giants are his life-support machine, and if you take those away he would flat-line in an instant.
While Oswalt's performance is mesmerising, Robert Siegel's writing and direction must also be commended. His script is honest and straight-to-the-point, he captures it captures all the awkward events of Paul's life perfectly, including the argument between the brothers on the toilet. While he uses the space of the world around him perfectly to capture Paul's subtle isolated life brilliantly and at the same time Siegel also uses the, sometimes overtly exaggerated, close-up shot to portray the characters emotions within this one man's own perfect universe. 'Big Fan' is low budget, high impact film that thrives off a gleaming central performance by Patton Oswalt, and is definitely one of the best independent films of the last couple of years.
Big Fan stands as a profound and thoroughly remarkable character study marked by a magnetic performance of Patton Oswalt. He excels as Paul Aufiero, a life-long fan of New York Giants being brutally hit by one of Giants' top players in a strip club. Oswalt is equally sympathetic and believable starring as this deeply troubled character. His performance is the chief, but thankfully not the only reason to see Big Fan. Writer-director Robert Siegel regards the sports fanaticism as an addiction and that gives his film the necessary gravitas: its power and its credibility. The script is devoid of clichés with many well-observed situations thrown in and several ingenious twists you won't see coming. As a result, you observe Paul falling into decay with great anxiety combined with care. Siegel crafts a subversive comedy, funny and bleak in equal measures. It also works as a peculiar take on the pathology of sports mania.
While watching this movie, it's best to keep in mind that the word "fan" is a shortened form of "fanatic." Patton Oswalt is disturbingly good as Paul, a 36 year-old pathetic shlub who still lives with his mother and works a dead-end job as a parking lot attendant. His life revolves around the NY Giants and calling in to sports radio shows to deliver rants he carefully composes while he passes the time in his parking attendant booth. One night in a strip club, Paul meets his favorite playerwho proceeds to beat Paul within an inch of his life. The rest of the film becomes a distressing and insightful commentary on the vaunted status we afford to our sports "heroes," often at the expense of our own sense of self-worth. We witness Paul's inability to understand what's happened to him, which results in a growing sense of dissociation, ultimately leading to a sad and pitiable attempt to assert his loyalty and strength.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A combination of the awesomeness of The Wrestler and the terrifying
mood of the trailer brought me to this movie. Robert Siegal has his
eyes on sports, but he's not making the feel-good sports movies about
the American Dream and hope winning over the underdog. His sports movie
is the world of self-destruction, or in this case, of ultimate passion
met with ultimate lack of ambition, as he explores the life of a person
with absolutely no motivation but for what serves his team.
Patton Oswalt plays Paul Aufiero, a man who loves his New York Giants. He loves the Giants so much, in fact, that he has nothing else in his life. He lives with his mother, he has no intention of getting a girlfriend, he has a dead end job that he's nevertheless completely satisfied with, and he does nothing all day but think up some excited rants to give out on his local fan radio station and drive to the Giants ballpark to support them (though not monetarily, as he just watches the television in the parking lot). When he and his one and only friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) see the Giants' quarterback Bishop getting gas, they decide to follow him to get a chance to meet him. Unfortunately, their lack of social grace and a miscommunication results in a violent confrontation and Paul ends up in the hospital, Bishop cannot play anymore, and the season--and thus Paul's sense of reality and self-esteem--go down the tubes in rather short order.
I was expecting disturbing drama but a lot of this movie is actually quite comedic, and it seems to me that Siegal is mostly working character portrait this time around. The good thing is that Paul Aufiero is neither a caricature of sports fans in general, nor does he stand-in for, for instance, Giants fans or anything like that. He is entirely his own individual character, and it's the lack of familiarity with him that gives most of the drama since it makes his decisions quite unpredictable. However, Siegal is, between The Wrestler and Big Fan, obviously great at creating empathy for his characters, so the drama definitely draws you in. I would have preferred a darker story simply because that is what I went in expecting, but it turns out that even the more comedic moments really do make sense in terms of who Paul is and what he would do in those situations. In the end, the movie is surprisingly nonjudgmental about his decisions, and he still manages to lose the all of nothing he had and still be happy (because he needs nothing else). So, good for Paul? The movie itself is certainly a win.
How big is the small independent movie "Big Fan"? Well if you are a fervent football fan, then to certain extents you will relate to the film's protagonist Paul Aufiero; a die hard New York Giants fan whose life revolves around following the pigskin team and one of its star players Linebacker Quantrell Bishop. If you are not a football aficionado, then my daring prediction is that you will still be taken by its narrative's character study on obsession as a way of life. So "Big Fan" did not make big bucks at the box office. So what! It still sacked plenty of dynamic film-making richness in Writer-Director Robert Siegel's brilliant look on one man's fixation for his favorite football team. Patton Oswalt's marvelous performance as Aufiero was of thespian Pro Bowl caliber. Oswalt fired away sorry maybe wrong choice of words for JFK Stadium Philly fans. What I meant to say is that Oswalt scores high with his portrayal of a sports nut who spends most of his working day as a park attendant writing discourse for his ritual nightly call-in to a sports radio talk show. Aufiero, near 40, still lives with his whining mother. His injury attorney brother Jeff, Jeff's archetypical New York attorney wife Gina, and Paul's other sibling Christine think that Paul is an immature "get a life" slacker whose New York Giants worship has caused him brain damage. Even though Paul's family is not on the "They Might Be Giants" team, they still love him and what him to flourish professionally & personally. The plot of "Big Fan" takes a stalking play-call turn when Auferio follows the Bishop to a Strip Club (somehow that does not sound right) and the Linebacker does an off-the-field "unsportsmanlike penalty" play by beating the crapola out of Paul. However, the deranged Aufiero does not intercept Bishop's playing career by pressing charges against the millionaire footballista. Kevin Corrigan's exceptional performance as Paul's Giants-Loving best buddy Sal well complimented Oswalt's Aufiero. This rocking "They Are Most Certainly Giants" duo were a big hit during their shared screen time. Michael Rapaport flew like an eagle in his brief scene-stealing supporting performance as the obnoxious Philadelphia Eagles fan Phil, which in some odd way could be classified as the villain of "Big Fan". Other supporting performances that tailgated the aforementioned fine acting of the film was carried by Marcia Jean Kurtz as Paul's Mom, Gino Cafarelli as brother Jeff, and Serafina Fiore as Gina. Siegel's game plan on the writing & direction of "Big Fan" was fantastic with its authenticity, creativity, and connectivity. And what an original trick plot play does Siegel call during the 4th Quarter of this movie! You just gotta see it! But at the end of the game, it was General Patton Oswalt's mesmeric starring performance that enamored me the most to be a big fan of "Big Fan". ***** Excellent
"Big Fan" is an unpleasant movie about an extremely unpleasant man.
Patton Oswalt plays a dumpy 37-year-old loser who lives with his mother and spends his life living vicariously through the glories of the New York Giants. On a night out on the town, he and his buddy catch sight of their favorite player and follow him to a nightclub. When they approach him, a misunderstanding leads to Oswalt getting badly beaten by him. But he refuses to take legal action against him despite the admonishments of his family, because he'd rather see his favorite player able to lead his team to a win than seek remuneration for himself.
"Big Fan" starts out as a low-key comedy, but gradually picks up dark overtones and seems like it's going to take its audience to some uncomfortable places. Oswalt's character comes across as a schlubby but mostly decent guy at first, but as the movie progresses, we start to wonder if he might be mentally unhinged. However, a cop-out ending lurches the film back into uneasy dark comedy, and basically asks us to find Oswalt's character endearing even though he's been nothing but off putting.
The tone is all over the place, the comedy never really working. If the film had acknowledged that Oswalt's character is a loser, and made some kind of point about the fine line that begins to separate hobby from obsession, it might have been more interesting. But it instead asks us to take his side, and seems to take the stance that his obsession is just the healthy interest of your everyday man-child. The movie goes out of its way to make Oswalt's family into obnoxious caricatures, and we're not supposed to like them because they think he needs to get a life, but guess what....his family seemed to me to make a lot of sense.
Pretty much the definition of a misfire.
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