Review: ‘Big Fan’
BIG FAN, originally reviewed from Sundance by Scott here at WAMG, is a movie that’s been getting a lot of praise from various critics, which made me curious as to why people have been enjoying it so much. Inherently, it’s this curiosity that has led me to see the film for myself and find out “why all the fuss?”
The film, written and directed by Robert D. Siegel, is his first directorial outing. Prior to BIG FAN, Siegel has written THE ONION MOVIE and most importantly, THE WRESTLER, which was one helluva great film, directed by Darren Aronofsky. So, this leads me to my first inclination… would certain films be better if they weren’t directed by the writer? After seeing BIG FAN, I am inclined to believe this, in some cases, it may be true. THE WRESTLER would not have been as good, in theory, ifSiegel had directed it himself.
With that said, I cannot write BIG FAN off as a total bust. It’s not. On the other hand, it’s not an easy film to watch either, which ultimately becomes part of it’s success. The story follows New York Giants super-fan Paul, played by comedian PattonOswalt (THE KING OF QUEENS, OBSERVE AND REPORT). Paul is obsessed with his team, and especially his hero Quantrell Bishop. He lives at home with his mother, works a crumby job collecting fees for a parking garage and has one friend and fellow fan named Sal (KevinCorrigan) whom he watches games and debates football with.
That’s Paul’s life. Nothing fancy, no ambitions and he likes it that way. His family can’t stand that he’s a loser and that he seems to be OK with that. Everything changes suddenly when Paul and Sal spot Bishop at a gas station and follow him to a Manhattan high-rolling strip club and things get “complicated” from there. After his encounter with Bishop, Paul has to struggle with the choice between doing what’s “right” by everyoneelse’s standards, or doing what’s best for “his” team which is what’s right by his standards.
BIG FAN is a dark, uneasy and altogether uncomfortable movie to watch. I love sports, even if football’s not my main preference, but anyone who sees this film, super-fan or otherwise, should know that you’ll be in for 86 minutes of discomfort. That doesn’t mean it’s a poorly made movie, but rather that I believeSiegel wants us to be uncomfortable. Paul is not a very likable guy, but it’s not because he’s a jerk or a psycho… it’s because few of us will be able to truly relate to him.
Despite the various flaws in the film’s production, including an overly video-esque visual quality to the film, Siegel does a great job of setting the audience up for an entirely unpredictable and satisfying end to this progressively dark story. Watching BIG FAN is equivalent to driving past a gruesome, brutal and bloody train wreck in which you know you shouldn’t look at and you try not to look at, but inherently end up gawking at with an almost hypnotic inability to pull your eyes away from.
Siegel has written the film in such a way that the suspense and intensity draw the viewer in, pulling at our innate morbid curiosity. We do not consciously wish any harm upon poor Paul, but at the same time we can’t help but wonder what his seemingly alien lifestyle will lead to, actively imagining the worst that may happen to him at every step of the journey.
Overall, after the not-always-enjoyable rounds of head-shaking, seat-squirming and jaw-dropping that I experienced watching BIG FAN, I can honestly say it’s not perfect, but it is ultimately an awkwardly enjoyable film.
BIG FAN opens in Saint Louis at the Plaza Frontenac cinema on Friday, September 25, 2009.