Friday, May 28, 2010

BIG FAN - Review

Directed by Robert Siegel, Starring Patton Oswald

Attendant Paul Aufiero (Oswald) furiously scribbles notes in a lonely parking structure toll booth.  He is scripting a call he will later make to a sports radio show defending his beloved New York Giants.  His words (largely chicken scratch) are pressed deep into the paper.  Paul means business.

This scenario says all one really needs to know about "Big Fan", which was written and directed by Robert Siegel, who wrote last years Oscar Cinderella "The Wrestler".  Many thought that film was a bit too saccharine (I was not one of them).  "Big Fan" is not.  It does not pull any punches.  It does not glamorize its lead.  Paul is a damaged, obsessive individual in the beginning and, by the end of the film little has changed.  So what, then, is the point?

Well, plot-wise there isn't much going on here.  The story is simple.  Paul and his best (and potentially only) friend happen across their favorite player at a local gas station.  They misguidedly decide to tail him, which results in Paul getting severely beaten by his idol at a strip club.  This forces Paul to examine himself and his obsession.  So near as I can tell, Paul is the point. 

The film hinges on his character, both in writing and performance.  For my money half of that battle is won by Patton Oswald, who shows a depth I had no idea he was capable of.  His social dysfunctions are many, and his only friend's ability to catch every call-in he makes to that aforementioned radio show implies that he tends to be free on most nights as well.  It does not appear as though Paul has a lot going for him.

Still, Patton Oswald lends a vulnerability to Paul that keeps you invested.  You hope for the best even though you are as skeptical as anyone else in the film.  His mother, for example, is not so subtly disappointed.  She is baffled by his contentment to be a single, football loving parking attendant.  His brother, after all, is a married lawyer.  Sorry mom, they can't all be winners.

"Big Fan" is an honest, realistic and occasionally interesting character study.  I say occasionally because even though the film runs at a meager 86mins, it feels substantially longer.  There just isn't enough meat on the bone, but an admirable performance from Oswald and a few stand out scenes make this one worth checking out.


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