Big Fan

April 18, 2012 at 12:53 am Leave a comment

Big Fan explores sports fanaticism at its most extreme. Patton Oswalt plays Paul from Stanton Island. He is the ultimate New York Giants fan. Pretty much his whole life is New York Giants football. He regularly calls sports talk radio shows. He shows up for the games but can’t afford a ticket so he just watches them out in the parking lot with his friend Sal. Through the course of events, he has a run in with his favorite player, Quantrell Bishop. Paul gets beaten into a coma. As a result, Bishop gets suspended and the Giants go on a losing streak. Paul also has a rivalry with another sports radio caller, Philadelphia Phil played by Michael Rapaport. Paul takes his reputation on The Sports Dogs radio show more seriously than being assaulted by Quantrell Bishop. The question at hand is what will Paul do about being severely beaten by his favorite player. *Spoilers will be coming* If you just want to know what I think though, I thought this was an amazing movie. The acting was excellent. The movie was well made. It’s an incredible character study where the hero and the enemy are the same person. I would say its well worth a watch.

Big Fan, at it’s heart, is a complex character study about a simple man. The movie is often described as a comedy but I feel like its more of a tragedy. Sure, there are humorous moments but I don’t feel like the events of this movie are played for laughs. If anything, Paul’s life is so sad its funny in a way. Paul has a dead end job as a parking attendant, lives with his mom, and only has one real friend to speak of. Members of his family try to offer him better job opportunities that he isn’t interested in. His mom would like for him to meet a woman and leave home. But he is comfortable. He carefully scripts the calls he makes to The Sports Dog Radio Show. He wants nothing more than what he has. In this movie, he is given a chance to make a positive change in his life but he ultimately does nothing with it. He cares more about how his action could possibly hurt the Giants and Quantrell Bishop than his own well being or situation. Paul’s actions are very short sighted. You would think that he would sue if only so he would have enough money for Giants season tickets for life. 

Another big theme of Big Fan is the nature of the relationship between sports team and fan. It’s is literally an one sided abusive relationship. Paul is severally beaten and his concern is with how this will effect the Giants this year. He protects Bishop by stonewalling the investigation of the beating. Paul’s action are similar to a domestic abuse victim who wants to defend their attacker. In exchange for this loyalty, he gets nothing. Even when his brother files a civil suit on Paul’s behalf, Paul gets angry, looking for any excuse to get the suit dropped. Paul even blames himself for getting beat, saying he was bothering Quantrell. The movies greatest strength is showing how Paul deals with everything that’s happened. The decision to step forward and tell his story, sue, and change his life for the better vs getting Quantrell back on the field to help the Giants win is not an easy one. With each passing week, the Giants slide further in the standings. However, the effects of the assault become apparent. He has severe headaches and emotional problems dealing with being beat by his favorite player. Ultimately, Qunatrell is allowed to step back on the field. But the Giants still can’t save the season. The tragedy of it all is that Paul sacrificing his own best interest for the team resulted in nothing. As a character arch, its fascinating. Paul goes through a journey that would change any other people, except him. The drama and suspense of the movie is drawn from waiting for Paul to make the decision to take action against his attacker and it doesn’t happen. Instead of taking action that would put Quantrell Bishop in jail, Paul’s actions land himself in jail.

The subplot of the war between Paul and Philadelphia Phil seems small compared to the main plot line but it is very telling of where Paul’s priorities are at in this character study. Philadelphia Phil is a man Paul has never met. Phil is to the Eagles what Paul is to the Giants. Phil, for what little we see of him, has a lot more going on for him. Phil seems to be a popular guy at the sports bar where he watches Eagles games. Paul watches Giants games in the parking lot of Giants Stadium with his one friend. Still, Paul takes the verbal attacks from Phil more seriously than the physical attack from Bishop. So much so that he drives to Philadelphia and shoots Phil in the bathroom with a paintball gun. Phil let everyone know that Paul from Stanton Island was the person who got beaten by Quantrell Bishop. This causes the media to start hassling Paul at home and work. He also loses some of his status on The Sport Dogs Radio Show. When his mom picks up the phone while he calls the show, he is completely destroyed and hung up on. The last thing he had was being the cool caller on the radio show. Philadelphia Phil takes that from him. We are lead to believe he is going to kill Phil. Instead, he just shoots him with Giants colors in a paintball gun. This sequences is very well done and suspenseful. You really question whether or not Paul can go through with it or has a change of heart. Why this subplot is important is because I think it lets us know that through everything he has been through, Paul has learned nothing.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. It’s well made. The acting is top notch. The story is well told. Big Fan is an amazing movie that does nothing you would expect from a movie. You pull for this character who is the ultimate loser and he lets you down. He is the hero and the enemy. I felt like it was very entertaining and well worth your time.

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