Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"big fan" movie review

i kicked off labor day weekend with "big fan" - perfectly spotted at the end of pre-season, lead-in to opening week, football. the film, written and directed by robert seigel (who also wrote mickey rourke's resurrection vehicle, "the wrestler") is about paul aufiero (patton oswald), a rabid ny giants fan, his one friend sal (kevin corrigan), also a rabid giant fan, his fellini-like family, and the surreal world that constitutes his life. one might imagine this independent film a comedy - and there are a couple of funny moments (the opening football game has an awesome take-away) - but it's secretly a drama (or, to perk up the tag a bit, tragi-comedy).

it's hard for me to imagine recommending (and this is a film definitely worth watching if you fancy yourself a football fan, at the very least) that inspires this string of adjectives: frustrating, claustrophobic, frightening, pathetic, pathological, and, in overwhelmingly large doses, depressing! 30 something paul works as a parking lot attendant and lives at home with his mother. any fan of "the big bang theory" will immediately recognize howard wolowitz (down to the mom's shrill voice penetrating the paper thin walls during important business). the difference is, wolowitz, despite being socially challenged - has intelligence and a life.

paul only knows football, literally. one scene, where he and sal attempt to ferret out information via the internet was painful. can a pair of young adults be that clueless? senior citizens in retirement homes w/dial up modems would make those two pecking at the keyboard look unsympathetically pathetic. even worse, when they are unable to find information about "how to end a lawsuit" they triumphantly concluded that "lawyers wouldn't want that sort of information made public!" but i've gotten ahead of the story line.

through a remarkable string of modestly absurd connections, paul and sal find themselves in strip club, plotting inanely how to introduce themselves to their favorite ny giants quarterback. he rewards their unfortunate success in finally meeting him with a brutal beat down of paul - who wakes up a couple of days later, barely alive, in a hospital bed. paul's only inquiries?! how did the giants do? what happened to the quarterback? how long will he be suspended? one inane question (under the circumstances) after another.

paul gives literal meaning to "taking one for the team" when he refuses to help the police gather evidence for an arrest; refuses to talk to the media; refuses to to let his brother (a sleazy ambulance chasing lawyer) bring suit for damages! all paul cares about is how this "incident" will affect the giants' season!! and, in that context, the second dimension of paul's otherwise empty life - sports talk radio - reemerges.

paul's claim to fame (slender the thread, but existing none the less) is his notoriety as the caller "paul from staten island" on a late night call in show. but even this is counterfeit because his "rants" are all scripted - a secret he even keeps from his best friend sal! paul write the script as he sits in his parking attendant's "box" collecting tolls. the listeners (including sal, who stays up late every night waiting to hear paul's newest rant) all believe his spiel is off the cuff stuff! and in the process, paul found a nemesis - "philadelphia phil" who call in to raze giants' fans!

i won't spoil the film's remarkable finish. it's enough to say that paul is literally driven to serious distraction (denial) from all the pressure (including the lawsuit filed on his behalf, against his wishes, by his brother - and the revelation that "paul from staten island" is none other than the paul aufiero, the beaten down fan!).

check out this film (hopefully before the seriousness of the regular season takes over) :D

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