If you are like me, you probably approach the concept of sport from a safe distance. It’s entertaining to watch, but you never quite made that leap where suddenly your sport of choice is the most important thing in life, and the success of your team is all that matters. Big Fan is a film about a man who has made that leap. Luckily though, in as much as The Wrestler is probably not a film about wrestling, this is not a film about American football. Probably.
Without delving too deeply into the plot, this is a film about Paul, a garage attendant who is devoted to the New York Giants. Chastised by his mother for not making something of himself, Paul tirelessly follows his team’s fortunes, until one day he spots one of his beloved Giants’ players on the street, and follows his hero to a club in Manhattan. On learning that he has been followed, the player assaults Paul, leaving him hospitalised.
You’ll probably spend the first half of Big Fan wondering where you’ve seen Patton Oswalt before. To save you the trouble of googling, he played Spence in The King of Queens, that slightly-too-saccharine-to-be-genuinely-endearing sitcom which ran during the 1990s. I’m not veering off-topic by accident here; the similarities between Queens’ Spence and Big Fan’s Paul are too many to ignore. Both are socially awkward men who struggle to assert themselves with others, particularly their domineering and demanding mothers. But while the sitcom is too light-hearted for the audience to feel sorry for Spence, it is crucial to point out that Big Fan is not a comedy. The humour is dark, even bleak, and Oswalt carries it excellently.
Big Fan was written and directed by Robert D. Siegel, who also wrote that film about wrestling which probably isn’t actually about wrestling for Darren Aronofsky. Unlike The Wrestler though (which is quite flawed in my opinion), there are no distracting sub-plots or superfluous supporting characters here. Oswalt’s character is a much more credible anti-hero than Mickey Rourke’s, and his love for the Giants is far more believable than that wrestler/stripper nonsense (semi-joke!). Ultimately I think that Mickey Rourke is just too cool to be taken seriously as a loser, and that’s where Big Fan wins. Sadly, it’s not as widely available as it deserves to be, but I’d highly recommend searching it out.