Fri 18 Sep 2009
54, huh? I wouldn’t have guesses a day older than 40.
In this age of 24/7 sports talk radio, SportsCenter and about 17 different ESPN channels (my favorite’s still the Ocho), American sports culture has never been so ferocious. Every town has fans that take their love of the local team to near-religious status. Most simply get their buddies together for an afternoon of sports, loudness and refreshments. Many will buy a jersey or deck out their TV room with team colors or logos. Some will paint their face or tailgate outside the stadium. There are always a few, however, that take things just a little bit too far and lose their own identity in that of the team.
Such is the case with “Big Fan”, written and directed by Robert D. Siegel (coming off the success of penning “The Wrestler“). In the film, Patton Oswalt plays a die-hard New York Giants fan who gets assaulted by his favorite player one night at a strip club.
While the average person would sue the bling out of the rich NFL star, Oswalt is so concerned about the potential for the team to lose without their star player that he refuses to cooperate with the investigate. Even when confronted by the possibility of losing credibility on the late night sports talk radio show he calls into in the wee hours of the morning, his love for the Giants cannot be swayed.
Now, there is the potential here for Siegel to really put down this die hard fan, and those like him. Sure, he lives with his mother and works in a parking lot toll booth. He may not be as successful as his siblings or have any ambition in life other than to see the Giants win the Super Bowl but at his core, he’s a good guy.
But instead of going that route, the film uses Oswalt’s character’s love of the Giants as the lightning rod to all of his mental anguish. You could replace the idolization fo sports with that of an actor, model or well-respected do-gooder and address the same issues of identity and self-worth.
Oswalt does an excellent job of playing this tragic figure, utilizing the everyman qualities that have garnered him so much success on the stand-up scene and in the roles he’s had up to this point. I firmly believe that comedians make for some great dramatic actors (since so many people turn to comedy as a means of escaping emotional pain) and it’ll be interesting to see if Oswalt continues to stretch himself as an actor.
Another smart casting was Kevin Corrigan as his best friend, who is of course a die-hard Giants fan. Together, they brave the slings of arrows shot at them by people who don’t share their passion and if there was an element of the film that I would have liked more of, it was their interplay. Their scenes together in the parking lot of Giants stadium, or on the phone with each other after Oswalt has delivered a great rant to the sports nation, say so much about these men and how they approach their lives.
I understand why Siegel also wanted to hit home the family issues that Oswalt deals with, as the under-achiever of the clan. Sadly though, while there is a decent sense of naturalism to his siblings performances, their interactions failed to really engage me and I kept waiting for the next Oswalt-Corrigan pairing.
Indie film fans will really take a liking to this, as the every day, real-life approach to filming helps to set the story within a context that we can all relate to. This isn’t some cutesy story about a nerd who makes good and gets the girl. “Big Fan” deals solely with this one man, looking to gain status amongst his peers and concerned only with that and a winning record for his beloved football team.
Some of the moments, especially Oswalt’s scenes with his mother (Marcia Jean Kurtz), will have you cringing a bit at the realistic awkwardness and help to strengthen the notion that so much of what happens in the film is more than a little believable. And although the main character is obsessed with sports, the film really isn’t about that. You don’t need to be a big sports fan to enjoy it and there won’t be a need for a football rules cheat sheet.
While I could have done with some tighter editing to trim down some of the seemingly superfluous scenes (it feels longer than its 85 minute runtime), I enjoyed getting a chance to check out “Big Fan” and give it a solid 3 out of 5. Fans of Oswalt will be happily surprised by his performance and maybe this will give people who are a bit too obsessed with their teams a small gut check … probably not, but one can dream (living in a town with great weather doesn’t make it so easy to become so involved with any of the teams here, there’s too many other things I could do).