Maggie Gyllenhaal & Tony Shalhoub star in this touching comedy about NY life after 9/11.
Hey, it’s Patton Oswalt! From director Robert D. Siegel – an alum of “The Onion” who wrote The Wrestler – Big Fan explores the dark side of sports zeal with humor and empathy. Oswalt plays Paul Aufiero, the world’s most obsessed fan of a New York football team that for legal reasons we’ll refer to as the Really Tall Guys. His entire happiness rides on the team’s success. Will a violent incident with his favorite player change his feelings about the team, or is being the world's biggest fan in his blood?
The Nosebleed Section
Big Fan is one of the few legit sports movie cult classics out there. Why do we say legit? Because it’s actually really good. The film hits the sweet spot of being both seriously funny and poignantly depressing. Funnyman Oswalt turns in a nuanced “sad clown” performance similar to what he did in Young Adult, allowing him to flex his acting muscles and show Bill Murray-like range. Kevin Corrigan, who plays his buddy Sal, is a certified member of the “Oh, That Guy!” All-Stars for his work in movies like Superbad, Pineapple Express, and Seven Psychopaths. Athlete-turned-actor Jonathan Hamm (aka the other Jon Hamm) and Stephen Edsel also play compelling characters in their supporting roles. If you like football, Big Fan will force you to own up to the violence of the game and irrationality of loving a team. And if you don’t like football, well, reread the previous sentence. For the real film nerds out there, see if you can spot the cameo from controversial director Josh Trank.
Most sports movies are aspirational in that they follow a talented athlete's pursuit of glory. Even an uplifting benchwarmer like Rudy Ruettiger was a better football player than 99 percent of the population. Big Fan is one of the few sports stories that tries to be relatable on a more realistic level for audience members. Not everyone is a giant sports fan, but theoretically anyone can be as big a fan as Paul. So how does a movie like this relate to your own fan experience with a team or pro athlete? Did it make you reconsider what it means to pin your happiness on a group of strangers? Have you interacted with a favorite player (or any artist, performer, etc. you really love)? If so, tell us how it went. Send us your stories and we may include them on the site!
While Patton Oswalt has emerged as a skilled dramatic actor, casting him in a more serious part was actually a big risk at this time. The role of Paul was first offered to Adam Sandler, who, in addition to having a much more extensive film resume, had also appeared in projects like Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love. To be fair, Oswalt had appeared in a small role in Anderson's Magnolia, but his highest profile role before this was as a cartoon rat. This raises an interesting question: Is it a good idea to take a risk on a performer going against type? Does it succeed in this film? Are there others where it doesn't work so well? Tell us your thoughts!