Big Fan

The decent, obliging thing to do if you’ve seen Robert Siegel‘s Big Fan is to give it a pass. If you care about independent cinema and you’d like to see at least a trickle of blunt, feisty, low-budget character dramas turning up at Sundance and Toronto and Cannes for years to come, you’ll put away the things that bothered or half-bothered you and just say, “Okay, very cool! Love that pudgy Patton Oswalt angst and the whole lower-depths, lower-middle-class Staten Island loser thing…love the grayness, the bleakness and the spirit-deflating self-loathing…love the shitty story…love the whole package.”

But I can’t do that, man. Because Big Fan wound up frustrating me all to hell.

I love movies that have gotten hold of something genuine and uncomfortably realistic, as Siegel has done here with the life of a sad, pissed-off fat guy named Paul (Oswalt) who works in a parking garage and lives with his braying mom in Staten Island and who lives for New York Giants games (which he can’t afford to attend so he watches the games in the Meadowlands parking lot outside the stadium with a friend, Sal, played by Kevin Corrigan), and who especially lives for his radio time on a sports talk show in which he goes into a vigorous rap about how great the Giants are and how lowly and contemptible the competition is.

Paul and Sal are these wonderfully tasty hopeless-loser characters, and the film is all about this great downbeat, going-nowhere milieu that makes the not-far-away world of the Sopranos seem like the land of Gene Kelly and Brigadoon. Big Fan is basically a very believable thing in just about any respect you’d care to name except — I’m sorry, have I mentioned this? — the story starting in the second act. That’s when it goes off the rails.

It happens after Paul and Sal happen to spot Giants player Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm) coming out of some low-rent house in Staten Island where he was probably scoring drugs. They tail Bishop to Manhattan and then to a Scores-like club, and follow him inside. They eventually go over to his table to say hi and, like the clueless assholes they are, mention the Staten Island sighting. Which of course makes Bishop angry and defensive, which leads to his flying off the handle and pounding Paul and putting him in the hospital.

So far, so good. And the next turn — Paul so invested in Giants worship that he refuses to press charges against Bishop or sue him for damages, even though he has a solid case and could probably collect big-time, especially with Paul’s ambulance-chasing attorney brother offering to handle the case — is interesting also. But the failure of Bishop to get in touch after Paul lets him off the hook, or for anything of a vaguely positive nature to happen due to Paul’s refusal to hurt the Giants in any way, is immensely disappointing. I simply didn’t believe that Bishop wouldn’t do or say something, and I knew as the story froze and gave up the ghost that Siegel had just…I don’t know what he was doing but I knew he wasn’t doing it.

The story just runs out of gas at this point because there’s really nothing at stake and nowhere to go. It comes to an end with a bizarre incident in a Philadephia bar that felt to me like just another reiteration of loser-dom.

N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis has written that the point of Big Fan is that a life filled with so much generous love needs no pity. Oh, yeah? The vibe in the beginning is one of half-articulate nihilism and self-loathing plus stupdi footbal love. The second act vibe is about the same thing. The third and closing act is about half-articulate nihilsm and self-loathing mixed with depression and fanatical stubbornness. What is anyone supposed to do with this? What is the appropriate response if you’re not a film critic? Drive out to the middle of the Verrezano-Narrows bridge and jump off?

37 thoughts on “Big Fan

  1. Saw this at Sundance and left early to go see The Cove. Best decision I made all week. My overriding impression of the film is that it didn’t “get” the nutso sports fan right at all. I know guys like this, guys who plan their lives around the NFL on Sunday and Patton’s character struck me as manufactured and false. Never for a second believed that this was an accurate representation of real, die-hard football fans. It felt like Siegel researched this stuff and built these characters out of anecdotes.

  2. That dude’s even fatter than that chick in the Campion film! How could this thing possibly be any good?

    I’ll give you 10:! he’s an Eloi slob (the character AND the actor!).

  3. Jimmy Fallon and the Red Sox fans in the Farrellys’ Fever Pitch remake thing were insufferable movie fakes. Fallon sitting there depressed rewatching an old video of some Red Sox defeat. Fuck off. I know it was a broad comedy but it just came off wanky, particularly compared to the source material – the original book by Nick Hornby which really is about the very best book you’ll ever read on sporting obsession. Even if he supports the Arsenal, the twats.

  4. The decent, obliging thing to do if you’ve seen Robert Siegel’s Big Fan is to give it a pass. If you care about independent cinema and you’d like to see at least a trickle of blunt, feisty, low-budget character dramas turning up at Sundance and Toronto and Cannes for years to come, you’ll put away the things that bothered or half-bothered you and just say, “Okay, very cool! –

    Up to this point in the review, you could effortlessly substitute “Robert Siegel’s Big Fan” with “Andrew Bujalski’s Beeswax”.

    Sorry to go off-topic, but Jeff’s initial sentiment resonated pretty strongly with me (having seen Beeswax the other night). I feel bad beating up on films like these -particularly when I like the filmmakers’ past work (i.e., Mutual Appreciation and The Wrestler) – for the very reason that there are so few of them able to see the light of projector in these Transformer times. But that’s also why it’s so disappointing when they’re so underwhelming.

  5. Jeff, even if you misunderstood the Bishop character enough to believe that he was a nice enough guy to get in touch with Paul, his lawyers would never in a million years allow it.

    But the point of the character is that he’s exactly the kind of dick who wouldn’t get in touch with Paul.

    The movie doesn’t run out of steam, you’ve simply watched the wrong movie. You wanted to see some kind of upbeat sports comedy. This is a movie about a guy who loves one thing, gets abused by that one thing, and the only way he knows how to react is to up the ante in his devotion to a really creepy level.

  6. It took me years before I realized that when Goon (Kevin Corrigan) was talking about bringing raisins to Billy (Vincent Gallo), that he was talking about ingredients for Pruno.

  7. Terry McCarty says:
    “Imagining this on a double bill with the now-forgotten 90s comedy CELTIC PRIDE.”

    Forgotten by all but its author, Apatow…. who fears that it still represents the depth of his well.

  8. I saw this at the Traverse City Film Festival, and I thought the performances were good but agree about the third act. Still, I think it’s worth seeing for Patton Oswalt.

  9. Hey, whomever’s seen this thing… how was Michael Rappaport? The guy kind of annoys me and seems like a legitimate loon. On Howard Stern last week Siegal said that he wrote that part specifically for Artie Lange on the Stern show, but he simply could not get hold of Lange to get him to do the part. Apparently this was at the height of Lange’s heroin filled descent and pretty much no one was reaching him; though he managed to show up for work basically every day on the Stern show.

    Hearing Siegel talk, it’s clear he’s a major Stern fanatic, and I wonder if he basically transposed his love of the Stern show into a character who loves the Giants; which is possibly why the sports fanatic aspect doesn’t ring true for some of the folks in the comments above…

  10. Patton Oswalt BLOWS.

    Can this dude go back to his old job, as the camo-rockin’ LEAD SINGER OF ACCEPT?

    Christ, ANYONE could do Oswalt’s material. Jokes about Star Wars and Black Angus? Couldn’t any other fat guy from AICN do that material?

    Oswalt sucks, DANE COOK is the true King of Comedy.

    If you think that’s being absurd, keep in mind Dane Cook is the highest-selling comic of the modern age, and has been in movies with JESSICA BIEL, JESSICA ALBA and Jessica Simpson.

    Oswalt just talks about KFC and voices a stupid rat.

    Winner? ALL HAIL THE DANE.

  11. Dane Cook needs to be drowned at sea. He’s really quite dreadful. His “edgy” joke at the Teen Choice Awards about Vanessa Hudgens (“Girl, you need to keep your clothes on!”) was dismal shite yet he managed to get himself all over the Access Hollywood type shows for about a week after that. I hope his face melts away.

  12. I was with Lex until he starting backing the WORST COMEDIAN OF HIS GENERATION.

    Patton Oswalt sucks worse than just about everyone EXCEPT Dane Cook.

  13. LexG –

    My sarcasm detector is wavering… you’re completely and utterly fucking with us right? The random caps is the giveaway, right? Because there really cannot be a single person who finds Dane Cook to be a better comedian than Oswalt, and that includes Dane Cook. And even further, there cannot be someone who would call out Oswalt like this… it’s just too weird.

    Please let us know you were joking.

  14. Dane Cook is a talentless hack. LexG is really backing the wrong horse this time, although that seems to be a pattern for him.

  15. Nixon really was the father of the modern Republican party. From;_ylt=AhVPbsuYgjhG.Gth5n6aVixH2ocA;_ylu=X3oDMTJuMGs0NXZvBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMDkwODI4L3VzX2tlbm5lZHlfYW5kX25peG9uBGNwb3MDMwRwb3MDMwRzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3JpZXMEc2xrA25peG9uZHVnZGVlcA– :

    “Nixon made clear that the Secret Service protection afforded Kennedy before the 1972 election would be rescinded after. Then, said the president, “If he gets shot, it’s too damn bad.” His aides disdainfully referred to Kennedy supporters as “super swinger jet set types.”‘ My prior allegation about RFK’s real killer doesn’t seem as far-fetched.

    Robin Williams digs 500 Days of Summer.

    Talk about being a shill. The guy admits the Gladiator BD image quality sucks, but suggests you can watch it anyway.

  16. Baron-Munchausen-by-Proxy wrote:
    Forgotten by all but its author, Apatow…. who fears that it still represents the depth of his well.

    Didn’t realize that Apatow and Colin Quinn were involved as writers.

    I remember Steven Kampmann (of NEWHART and CLUB PARADISE fame) claiming that Dan Aykroyd made changes to the script of THE COUCH TRIP (which Kampmann wrote) that “destroyed” it.

    Woncering if Aykroyd did any polishes on the CELTIC PRIDE screenplay.

  17. It surprises me that LexG’s attempted career as a comedian failed utterly. I just can’t see why he didn’t succeed.

  18. How many people in here have seen the movie or is everyone commenting on Wells’ cranky commentary like good little sycophants?

  19. Why should anyone feel bad about beating up on Indiewood false realism? Some of it is better than others, but right now, indie film is drowning in this stuff.

  20. I’m writing a screenplay where LexG sees Megan Fox at the Farmer’s Market and causes such a commotion that Fox throws a hot coffee in his face, temporarily blinding him and giving him 3rd degree burns on his face chest and neck…then LexG refuses to press charges.

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