- Rated R
All photos © First Independent Pictures
Reviewed by Mike Farley
ith the start of the NFL football season looming in a few weeks, it was fitting that the opening of “Big Fan” coincides with it. The independent film, written and directed by Robert Siegel (“The Wrestler”), depicts the life of diehard New York Giants fan Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt) that is both vividly real and painfully disturbing at the same time.
Aufiero works as a parking garage attendant in Staten Island, and his worship of the Giants is the sole defining characteristic to his pathetic existence. He still lives at home with his mom (Marcia Jean Kurtz), and each day “scripts” a call to local sports talk radio show 760 “The Zone.” Aufiero, known by the station host, Sports Dogg (Scott Ferrall) as “Paul from Staten Island,” often engages in verbal sparring with “Philadelphia Phil” (Michael Rapaport), but gets so excited that he is often told by his mother to “keep it down” as their bedrooms butt up against each other. And by “told,” we mean she shouts in New Yawk drawl like George Constanza’s mother on “Seinfeld.”
Aufiero and his buddy Sal (Kevin Corrigan) share in their obsession of the Giants, and travel across the river to Giants Stadium in New Jersey for every home game – to tailgate and watch the game on TV in the parking lot. But things take an interesting twist when Paul and Sal spot Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm), their favorite player, at a gas station. They follow Bishop’s limo to a strip club in Manhattan, and while everyone else in the club is paying attention to the topless dancers, the two friends can’t take their eyes off of Bishop, who is surrounded by a posse and several female companions.
After finally mustering the courage to approach Bishop (known affectionately to fans as “QB”), things take an ugly turn. Aufiero admits that they followed QB into the city after spotting him at a gas station, and the player, who has no doubt ingested a few cocktails, loses his temper and beats the crap out of Paul, as his posse has no luck holding him back. Aufiero wakes up in a hospital bed with a black eye and head trauma, and finds out that he was almost beaten to death by his idol. Paul’s brother Jeff (Gino Cafarelli) is, naturally, one of those defense attorneys who specializes in personal injury cases. Jeff wants Bishop to pay for what he did to Paul, but Paul’s fanaticism won’t let that happen. Paul is also continually approached by the New York tabloids and by a detective (Matt Servitto), but Paul pretends to “forget” what happened and decides not to press charges, because he doesn’t want Bishop to miss any playing time.
Everything about this film is so real, which makes it all the more disturbing. Oswalt is terrific in his role, as are Kurtz and Cafarelli, who round out a most dysfunctional family that could easily be your neighbors on Staten Island. If you’re a diehard football fan, and especially if you root for the Giants or Eagles, you have to see this film. Even if you’re not a football fan, you’ll marvel at the way Siegel brings these characters to life – painful and disturbing life.