It’s football season again, now officially resumed on both the collegiate and the professional level. And while you may think the sport is only a backdrop for the campiest of film (COUGH…”The Blind Side“), “The Wrestler” scribe Robert Siegel dared to take the popular game and craft a searing small-scale ethical drama that asks some challenging questions. I’m such a big fan of his “Big Fan” that I’m naming it my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”
I’m convinced “Big Fan” had to have been some form of audition for “Young Adult” for Patton Oswalt because these two performances work so well in tandem. Here, Oswalt bares his dramatic chops as Paul Aufiero, another stalled thirty-something living in his childhood home. He may be just a lowly parking garage attendant, but Paul has one thing that brightens his life and gives him purpose: the New York Giants.
He’s a reminder that the word fan comes from the word fanatic. Paul calls into the local sports radio station with intricately pre-fabricated monologues and sees himself as at war with the dreaded Philadelphia Eagles. And as these types of movies often do, a single event changes everything. In “Big Fan,” Paul takes a big hit – quite literally, at the fists of his favorite Giants player, Quantrell Bishop.
Beyond just the questions of how it affects the way he obsesses over the team, it also brings up issues of criminal liability for Bishop. Assaulting Paul could lead to jail time and suspension, thus harming the Giants. But is he willing to take this hit for the team? Paul Aufiero the fan and Paul Aufiero the human being can no longer coincide peacefully … one must vanquish the other. So what will it be? Oswalt’s starkly meditative performance keeps us on the edge of our seat until Paul takes decisive action.