Comedian Patton Oswalt turns in a terrific performance in "Big Fan," and it's not a comedic one. Although the film has its funny moments, it's a drama "? one that aims to disturb, and succeeds.
The directorial debut of "The Wrestler" screenwriter Robert Siegel, "Big Fan" casts Oswalt as Paul, a sad, dumpy, middle-aged man who works as a parking lot attendant and lives with his overbearing mother. OK, so he's a loser. He seems to exist solely for football; specifically, the New York Giants. He obsessively scripts out rants on legal pads to read over the phone on call-in radio shows, talking smack on other teams and Giants haters.
One figures he'd join the latter group when he approaches his idol, Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm), in a nightclub and showers him with praise. Bishop responds by beating Paul up so bad, he lands in the hospital. Detectives want to question Paul, and his lawyer brother urges him to sue, but instead, Paul does the unthinkable: He defends his bully.
Oswalt gets right to the heart of his character. People like this actually exist, who take criticism of their team as seriously as one would a slam against a spouse (or even more seriously, to tell the bitter truth). What sounds funny on the radio, however, comes across as sad when you get a glimpse of the miserable life behind the all-talk voice. If the final scene doesn't unnerve you, check your pulse.
With "The Wrestler" and now this, Siegel has established himself as a master of the anti-sports sports film. Both movies are oddball, with unlikely, flawed heroes at their chewy, cerebral centers. "Big Fan" didn't get much of a theatrical release last year, but those who caught it championed it. Now that it's on DVD, you can see why. Touchdown. "?Rod Lott