Have you ever wondered about the sort of people who regularly call in to talk radio? I mean really wondered about the type of person who sits there on hold, night after night, for the chance to briefly be heard on the air. Is it a sort of fame? Is it a recognition of their self-worth, their importance? Big Fan explores the sympathetic life of just one of these men.
Mislabeled as a comedy, Big Fan is actually an intense and devoted character study of the life of Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt), self-described # 1 NY Giants fan. The film is as relentless as Paul, following him and only him through bleak, joyful and ultimately realistic terrain. Paul lives with his awful mother and is endlessly degraded by his equally awful family. His only refuge is in the season of the Giants and the local sports talk radio station, where he’s a regular– ‘Paul from Staten Island’. His only human refuge is friend Sal, who shares his obsession. They are so poor they cannot physically attend the Giants games, but they’re happy as hell to listen to the game on a dinky radio outside the stadium. Paul naturally doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with his life, although everyone else in his family sees it as a tragedy. “Happiness is family!” His mother berates. “Children!” Paul shouts in anger, “I don’t want what they want!” Ultimately, the film suggests, this is just fine.
Big Fan bears more than a passing resemblance to Taxi Driver. Its almost a semi-comic, sports remake of the film, with Travis Bickle played by Patton Oswalt– who is, by the way, phenomenal. Big Fan relies upon his performance. Oswalt’s Paul is the only real character, the only link we have to the film. And we buy his reality, feel his intense conflict and pain, believe in his love. Gorgeously shot, heartrendingly acted and smartly written, Big Fan is exceptional and should have netted Oswalt an Oscar nod.
Britta R. Moline 12/17/2011