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Big Fan: American idolizing

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Robert D. Siegel, who wrote the screenplay for The Wrestler, now makes his directorial debut with a picture that shifts the spotlight from the sports arena to the stands. Big Fan's protagonist is Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt), who considers himself nothing less than the New York Giants' most ardent supporter ... ever. Now in his mid-30s, Paul is perfectly OK with living at home with his exasperated mother (Marcia Jean Kurtz) and working a dead-end job as a parking attendant. Aside from the occasional masturbatory session under the sheets, his only pastimes are watching Giants games and religiously calling into a nightly sports-radio station. All runs smoothly in Paul's insulated bubble until the night he spots his favorite Giant, linebacker Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm), and gets up the nerve to talk to him. The encounter lands Paul in the hospital, but he ultimately isn't too worried about his own well-being; more importantly, he wonders how this distracting incident will affect the rest of the Giants' season. The cult of organized sports often requires many sacrifices from its diehard devotees -- of time, money, even family. Siegel's picture takes it to the extreme, examining the outer reaches of this particular mode of hero worship and the psychological impact of sacrificing one's entire life to something that yields limited dividends. Big Fan stretches credulity in spots, but for the most part, it manages to keep its eye on the ball.  ***

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