Robert Siegel maybe one of the most important writer/director auteurs to surface in the past several years. After writing The Onion Movie and The Wrestler, Siegel took the writer/director role of Big Fan, a 2009 Sundance Film Festival selection that strayed away from typecasting Patton Oswalt and prevented the film from emerging as a typical comedy.
Paul Aufiero (Oswalt) considers himself the world’s biggest New York Giants fan so much that he defends the team he loves against “Philadelphia Phil”, an Eagles fan who who rants against the Giants on a radio program. When not devouring information about his beloved team, Paul works as a parking lot attendant. His family berates his love of the Giants and his lack of pursuit in anything else, including a family. Regardless, Paul is content with just the Giants.
Paul and his friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) happen to see the star for the Giants, Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm) and follow him from a drug deal to a strip club. At the strip club, Paul and Sal introduce themselves and after slipping up and admitting that they followed Bishop, Bishop attacks Paul putting him in the hospital.
Paul chooses not to sue in order to see his beloved Giants continue unabashed. However, Paul’s life and health has been clearly affected for the worse and Paul must struggle with his decision. Paul’s radio persona is revealed through clever sleuthing by Philadelphia Phil, and enrages enough for Paul to visit Phil at his local Philadelphia bar for one last encounter.
Big Fan is a silent gem that never hit wide release, yet the writing, acting and direction is clearly superior. Paul is a character that is conflicted by either obtaining monetary justice or seeing his favorite team continue with their star player. It is clear in the beginning of the film, Paul is not interested in money, women, or success; just the proliferation of the Giants.
Siegel has created quite a little niche for himself when it comes to main characters. The Onion Movie and The Wrestler both feature a male character that has about to, has already fallen from the height of their careers. Big Fan picks up the pieces with a character who has film place on the bottom of the pecking order, and loves it there. These characters have compelling stories and struggles that are easy to sympathize with.
Paul’s character reminds us of someone we know. Someone who blindly follows their favorite team, music group, director, or any idol or hero for that matter. These are people who are solely influenced by one thing. It’s a simple characterization for complex people. Oswalt efficiently sheds his genius comedic demeanor to the simplicity of a Giant’s fan, and disappears into his role as Paul.
The darkness of this subtle comedy works tremendously well and Siegel’s themes and motifs are starting to take shape as he continues his career as a screenwriter, director, and auteur. Keep your eyes on Robert Siegel, great things may come from this filmmaker in the future.
Big Fan is a wonderful film that proposes an interesting idea of how far a fan can go, and how much they can be affected by the betrayal of an idol or hero. Certainly give this film a shot in your home and keep Siegel in mind for future works.