December 23, 2010

Big Fan? As A Matter of Fact...

George Clooney, eat your heart out.

I just finished watching Big Fan, a movie starring Patton Oswalt as a lifelong Giants fan whose love of his team is pretty much all he has in this world. His job sucks, his family doesn't understand him and from the outside looking in, you feel sorry for this pathetic loser who, in his late-30's, still lives at home with his nag of a mother. 

And yet, Oswalt's Paul is perfectly content with his lot. He is happy to spend his Sundays in the parking lot of the Meadowlands with his best friend, in the shadow of his heroes, watching their exploits on the portable television set they bring with them because they are too poor to afford the tickets to the games. 

Paul is also a regular caller on a sports talk show, and it is there where he shines. His daily on-air tirades earn him more than enough admiration and respect to get him through the day. His fandom of the Giants defines who he is, so when fate gives him a chance to meet his favorite player... he embarks on a journey into a world that can only end in disaster...

Therein lies the brilliance of this film. Paul is simultaneously pathetic and heroic, admirable and cowardly -- and in the movie's final confrontation, Oswalt's performance builds the tension to a pitch-perfect point before the character's fatal flaw, his lack of ambition surfaces again. 

The pacing of the movie could use a little tightening up, but other than that I have no complaints, and I look forward to more dramatic work from comedian Oswalt, who in the past has also strutted his serious side in a few episodes of the under-appreciated television show, Dollhouse

I get that some viewers of the film might well be "disappointed" in the ending that writer/director Robert D. Siegel presents, and at first glance, it is a bit disappointing that it didn't go down the much darker path that I was expecting... but upon reflection, that choice is exactly why the film  works, because ultimately that's the point. Paul can't go down that road, because he simply can't. He lacks the ability. 

Are you looking at me? Oh, you are? Sorry, my bad...

Watching Paul's decisions throughout the film, you shake your head in amazement as he goes down what most people would clearly see as the wrong path at each and every crossroad -- but he doesn't really have the choice. He is a broken and flawed man, and yet, Paul ends up in exactly the same place at the end of the film as where he started: happy and hopeful -- and if that's truly the case, then who are we to judge?

1 comment:

  1. Right on, A.J., good write-up of a solid movie.

    Have you seen The Winning Season? It should be a junky cliche sports movie but is really elevated by Sam Rockwell's lead performance.