Sundance Review: Big Fan
Patton Oswalt has already proven his chops as a voice actor in Ratatouille, but few would have pegged him as a flat out great actor. He proves his chops in Big Fan, delivering a deep and nuanced performance as the world’s most deeply committed… and perhaps deeply disturbed super fan.
He plays Paul Aufiero, a man whose entire life is defined by his love of the New York Giants. He works a dead-end, meaningless job as a toll booth attendant and loves it, because it allows him to spend the day listening to sports talk radio. He endlessly obsesses over his team and at night calls into sports talk to argue with Jets fans. Paul doesn’t seem to care that he lives with his mother or that he’s a lonely loser, he has his Giants and that’s all that matters.
One night he spots his favorite player, Quantrell Bishop, across the street at a gas station. This is an opportunity that Paul can’t pass up. He and his buddy hop in their car and follow Quantrell, until he enters a local night club. There, out of place amongst champagne and high class strippers, they work up the courage to approach Bishop… and things go horribly wrong. Quantrell has a short fuse and something Paul says sets him off. He delivers a vicious, brutal, near life-ending beating to Aufiero, leaving him hospitalized and suffering from horrible headaches.
Paul, doesn’t seem to mind. He goes home and goes right back to his job, right back to his devotion to the Giants. His family, the media, the entire world screams for him to do something, to sue, to make Quantrell pay for what he’s done to him. Like a battered wife who thinks her husband just can’t help himself, all Paul can think about is whether the Giants will make it into the playoffs.
Oswalt is flat out brilliant as Paul. The brutal beating he receives at the hands of hulking Quantrell is both shocking and disturbing, his tiny, almost childlike form curled on the floor being pummeled flat by the hulking brute of a crazed football player. The aftermath is absolutely heartbreaking, and Paul refuses to do what’s best for him out of some crazed sense of duty and love. You can see it in Patton’s eyes that somewhere, deep inside he knows he’s wrong. He knows his love of this team is ridiculous, that his devotion to them in the face of pain and misery is idiotic… but he also knows that without them he has nothing. Patton does something pretty amazing here, creating a character that is all at once comedic, heartbreaking, and supremely insightful. Take a journey deep inside the mind of the most dedicated sports nerds, don't miss Big Fan
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