Patton Oswald is Paul Aufiero, a parking lot ticket checker who lives in his moms basement. While his friends have all moved on life, gotten careers, marriage etc, Paul appears to lead a stunted existence. His only respite are his beloved NY Giants. His Sunday night ritual after watching the game is to phone in to his favourite call-in show to gloat and insult his crosstown rivals the Philadelphia Eagles. Aufiero is so obsessed he meticulously writes down a word-for-word transcript before making his call.
One night Paul and his buddy Sal (Kevin Corrigan) happen to see their idol, QB Quantrell Bishop, pumping gas. The superfans proceed to follow him and his pals across town and into a strip club. After a couple of pathetic attempts to make contact Aufiero gets the balls to say hi. Unfortunately an inappropriate comment causes Bishop to snap and give Paul a violent beat down sending him to hospital. When Bishop is suspended for the incident and the Giants start losing Paul has to make a number of crucial decisions about his team and his life.
Big Fan exists as a good companion piece to The Wrestler. One film examines the world of sports fandom from the pro viewpoint and the other obviously takes the fan point of view. In fact, it wouldnt be too difficult to transfer Paul Aufieros idol worship from quarterback Quantrell Bishop to The Ram. Also, both films feature uncomfortable confrontations on chilly sidewalks and have the requisite strip club scenes.
Its also hard not to feel that Siegel has also incorporated influences from other shaggy dog who cant fetch the bone films. Pauls calling into his beloved sports radio show while his mother yells from the other room to shut up feels borrowed from the horrifically awkward basement tape recording scene from Martin Scorseses The King of Comedy, which features the same screechy kind of mom.
“Big Fan” is easily one of my favorite films of the year. While a lot of people want to stretch and obsess over the hang-ups with Scorsese or Siegel’s prior success with The Wrestler…this film stands on its own. What’s more amazing is the fact that you see Oswalt not just coming into his own as an actor, but you see him making the material better. There’s a special kind of talent that can do that and we’re slowly lacking in such power in modern cinema. Siegel’s a great writer, but his material needs a strong lead. Luckily, he had one here and it’s enough to make you want to come back for more. SEEK THIS OUT!