[Film Fest] Genuinely interesting screenwriters often develop an artistic thumbprint as distinctive as any director's. For Robert Siegel (The Wrestler), if you throw away The Onion Movie—and he probably wishes he could—that calling card could be the psychology of losers whose sense of self is connected to something superficially inconsequential.
Big Fan—Siegel's directing debut, in addition to his latest screenwriting credit—casts Patton Oswalt as Paul Aufiero, a Staten Island parking garage attendant who lives and dies based on the success of his beloved New York Giants. One night he and his pal (Kevin Corrigan) spot the team’s star linebacker Quantrell Bishop, and impulsively follow him to a nightclub, where an attempt to get chummy results in Paul getting his ass kicked. But when Bishop’s legal fate threatens the team’s chance for a playoff spot, Paul has to choose between the Giants' well-being and his own.
Siegel treads dangerously close to caricature in portraying Paul as a lives-with-mom, no-girlfriend sadsack, and shows a bit of a tin ear when it comes to the heavily-scripted rants of the guys who call in to sports-talk radio shows. But Big Fan nevertheless proves both funny—and sad—when it comes to exploring the sense of power-by-proxy that comes from cheering for a winning team. Like The Wrestler’s protagonist, Paul can’t envision himself as having any sort of intrinsic worth as a person, and his most absurd decisions show a perverse sort of integrity. As tragic as Siegel’s perspective on this kind of character may be, at this point it’s distinctively his own. (Scott Renshaw)