By Matt Brunson
DIRECTED BY Robert D. Siegel
STARS Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan
Robert D. Siegel, who wrote the original screenplay for last year's superb drama 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), staying away from members of the opposite sex, 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 with his friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) and religiously calling into a nightly sports-radio station to offer opinions which he's scrupulously scripted ahead of time.
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 and Quantrell on the NFL's suspension list, but Paul 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 (for starters, that Fantasy Football can sure eat up weekends!), 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.