If you listen to The Jim Rome Show (or any sports talk radio show, for that matter), you'll know that many of the callers are often mocked for being "pasty fat guys who live in their mother's basements and write their takes on pieces of paper before calling into the show". While that all-in-good-(sorta)fun jab may have some truth in it, it's also a simplistic sketch of somebody that most of us either know or can heartily relate to. And that somebody is the regionally specific "obsessive sports fan" guy.
To give you a piece of personal history, I literally cried in the middle of my parent's living room when the Astros fell apart and lost to the Mets in the 1986 NL Championship Series. Moving ahead to the period of 1989-1993, I used to barricade myself away in the bedroom to watch Houston Oilers football games, throwing mini-Nerf footballs and/or rolled up pairs of socks at the posters on my wall when that damn Run-and-Shoot offence would go 0 for 4 from the opponent's two yard line.
I hope I didn't lose anyone there... my point was to simply express, very briefly (trust me, I could fill a whole new blog with sport heartache stories) , how I feel I can relate to the level of emotional and pathological fandom that comes from following a team with your heart exposed. Of course, that kind of emotion came out of me when I was a "kid". Paul Aufiero, the hardcore NY Giants fan in Robert Siegel's Big Fan, on the other hand, is a schlubby 30-40 something parking lot attendant still living with his mother in a frozen-in-time Staten Island suburb.
Director Siegel and cinematographer Michael Simmonds don't let you forget about that either, shooting the Aufiero house in blown-out saturated colors that paint the already aged living room walls, bedroom floors, and kitchen tops in a nasty yellowish-brown puke hue that matches up nicely with the three day old shiner Paul received early in the film. The beat down viewers get for the entirety of Big Fan comes out of a total package.
Now, I don't - for a second - believe that Siegel nor Patton Oswalt (in the role of Paul) held any malicious intentions when they were laying out plans for a portrait of a guy I'm sure they've known their whole lives as well, but the end product sure doesn't reflect otherwise. Any attempt at dark humor gives way to a sloppy, tonally imbalanced, pencil thin character sketch. Perhaps Big Fan's most off-kilter and confusing scene is its last one, a behind-glass prison chat that recalls Pickpocket by way of American Gigilo. What at first seems like a moment of resolve for Paul, a poor guy that has taken it on an ever increasing level throughout the entire film, turns into kind of a don't-be-surprised-if-I-end-up-in-this-very-same-situation-next-year final shot. It's a bummer.
A friend of mine recently said, "I wish someone else would direct this premise". It's a good point to consider. Think of Big Fan in comparison to The Wrestler (which Siegel wrote), and you'll notice a vast difference in the handling of the subjects of both films. On paper, the sports obsessives aren't too far apart from the down-and-out pro wrestlers on the socially awkward scale, but Darren Aronofsky treated the tanned-hulking massives like real people. Siegel, on the other hand, turns Paul into a but of a cartoon, a hyper-exaggerated man child that masturbates under NFL bedsheets. We already kid about sports show callers living like slobs in their mom's basements. To make nothing but a movie version of that is really just a waste of time.