Hell is being a sports fan

Big Fan is misery desperately searching for company.

Big Fan is misery desperately searching for company.

If you ever wanted to experience the pathetic miasma of a sad, little man in his sad, little world—one of those people who call in to sports talk radio—then this movie is for you. If nothing else, it will make you feel better about your own life.

The man in question is Paul Aufiero, played in a successful dramatic turn by comedian Patton Oswalt.

Paul is one of those unfortunate people who can be defined by all the shit stacked high in his existence: he’s fat, unsocial, lives with his mother at the age of 36, has a douche bag lawyer for a brother and fitfully masturbates under bed sheets with the New York Giants’ logo printed on them. Appropriately, the team is his obsession. It’s the only thing he cares about. When he talks about the Giants, on the radio or to his one, solitary friend, Paul seems happy. The rest of his life is suffering.

So when Paul sees his favorite player in public, he follows him, first to an apparent drug deal and then to an expensive nightclub. Hatching a plan to become friends with this player, he approaches with a lifetime of un-socialized nuance. He gets his ass kicked. Badly.

Most of the film revolves around Paul battling with what to do. You see, if he agrees to testify against the player, he will be off the team and the Giants will surely lose. This is an unacceptable scenario. So Paul says nothing.

That’s basically the plot of this intensely character driven film: we follow the inevitable emotional tragedy of a broken man-child.

One could look at this portrayal of a sports fan as a continuation of the themes wrought by The Wrestler, which this film’s director, Robert D. Siegel, also wrote. Professional sports are, it seems, a treacherous path for the human condition, full of false promises and fake glory.

But then again, the abject life presented herein is not necessarily normal to sports fans, but rather to a type of individual who substitutes fantasy—it could be football, World of Warcraft or Martha Stewart’s cookie cookbook—for real, tangible human interaction.

The problem with Big Fan is that all we get is the torture. Despite the superb portrayal by Oswalt, who hits all of the film’s many blue notes right in key, the story doesn’t detail an existential crisis so much as it shows a profoundly delusional man being profoundly delusional. It’s just sad, and nothing else.

It’s a shame, too. Everything else seems to be in place. The quick and cheap digital photography suits the tone of the film well, even if it looks like so many other indies out there. And the acting is almost uniformly excellent.

But it’s the story that doesn’t hang. It is the anti-Prozac. I’m fine with having my emotions manipulated by a film—that just means it is doing its job—but I also want a payoff. Especially if it makes me depressed. Big Fan just drains.