Monday, January 25, 2010

TBG (Finally) Sees: Big Fan

10-Word Premise: Crazy Giants fan beaten up by favorite player. Goes crazier.

Starring: Patton Oswalt as NOT
Tom Daniels; Kevin Corrigan as a half-Irish, half-Puerto Rican Milhouse Van Houten; Middle-aged Michael Rapaport as a Philadelphia pastiche and Marcia Jean Kurtz as the cinematic Italian mother.

The Best Thang(s): The movie immediately – albeit broadly – establishes the characters and their respective motivations. Oswalt plays "Paul" – an obsessive fan of the New York Giants football team. His best friend (Corrigan) is "Sal" whose loyalty to the Giants is almost matched by his loyalty to Paul. Meanwhile, Paul's mother (Kurtz) is at her wit's end with her 36-year-old son who lives at home and wakes her up with late night calls to his favorite sports-talk radio show.

The first 20 minutes are very strong, highlighted by a terrifically ridiculous sequence involving Paul's whorish, home-wrecking sister-in-law (Serafina Fiore), a child's birthday cake featuring the visage of a certain gangsta rapper and the car ride home between Paul and his mother (and a gazillion f-bombs).

The Worst Thang(s): At the film's one-quarter mark, Paul is nearly beaten to death by his favorite player after following him to a strip club (natch). Big Fan, unfortunately, spends the rest of its time stuck in first gear. You'd think a brazen assault would cause even the most strident supporter to at least question his blind allegiance to his favorite player, but Robert Siegel's script barely pays lip service to Paul's internal conflict. Paul immediately chooses a side in the conflict he inadvertently created and doesn't really waver.

Frustratingly, the character development doesn't evolve beyond the caricatures we see in the film's first scenes. Paul is not only a loser, but he masturbates a lot. His brother Jeff is not only a seedy lawyer, but an adulterer, a racist and a REALLY seedy lawyer (again). Even the predictable media firestorm seems flat and two-dimensional. The reporters hounding Paul come across as a minor nuisance hardly worth the stress Paul's apparently experiencing.

Matt Servitto plays a detective trying to get to the bottom of things, but Paul blows him off in three different scenes. The final three-quarters of the film tell the same story over and over against the backdrop of the Giants collapsing down the stretch. There's a weird climactic build towards Paul's confrontation with the disembodied voice of his talk-radio archenemy (Rapaport) and a swervy, unsatisfying payoff in the cramped confines of a sports-bar bathroom.

The Verdict: I really think non-sports fans will dig this more than sports fans. Big Fan plays right into the knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing stereotypes of people who wear their favorite players' jerseys and live in their mother's basement spare bedroom. But, this really could've been a more nuanced look at society's sports fanaticism. Instead, we get one team's fan trying to kill another team's fan and about 10 minutes too many of Scott Ferrall.


Joe Reid said...

Hmm. I'm not sure I agree with you about Paul never having internal conflict after the assault. I think it's more of an external/internal thing. Externally, he has to keep up the facade that it's not so bad and he maybe deserved it and GO GIANTS because that's his identity. If he admits that his favorite player(s) are violent, entitled, neanderthal jerks -- that all he's put into cheering for the Giants meant less than nothing to the people he's cheered for -- then his whole identity crumbles and he really is just a masturbator living in Mom's basement.

Internally, I think we do see that struggle, between whether Paul sees himself as an individual capable of standing up for himself or merely as the #1 Giants fan. I think that struggle is there within Patton Oswalt's performance. It's why we see him have to refuse to press charges three time. Ultimately, he chooses to sacrifice himself (literally -- he ends up in jail) and remain a Fan, but I think there's definitely internal conflict.

Also, I thought the entire sequence in the Philly bar had an absurd tension, whether or not you think the conclusion was a cop-out (which...I might).

That Bootleg Guy said...

I think for me, I just never bought into that "conflict". We get the hospital scene immediately following the beating and the first thing Paul wants to know is if the Giants won the day before.

The other side of the conflict is shown mostly thru the eyes of people who want to use Paul to further their own gains (Paul's brother, the detective).

I dunno...a lot of Big Fan seemed so heavy-handed to me. Even the final scene in prison with the newspaper clipping of the Giants schedule. It's like the script took the straightest path possible to reach the following conclusion: "People can't change".

Tom said...

I'm nothing like him. I'm much cooler because I have a blog and only -listen- to too much sports-talk radio.