Big Fan

I wasn’t. Robert Siegel’s film, a relentlessly-focused study of an obsessive Giants fan, has gotten a lot of love, for its nods to ‘seventies character studies (or at least its writer/director’s and star’s respective desire to emulate those studies) and for its central performance. Patton Oswalt is properly pouty and arrogant and vulnerable. The film follows Paul from Staten Island through some of his pitiful daily rituals (he doesn’t even go in to the games, but sits in the parking lot and watches on tv with his even more pitiful buddy Kevin Corrigan); when Paul and mate spy their hero QB in their neighborhood, they follow him into Manhattan, and into a strip club, and then eventually wheedle up the courage and go see him. And he figures out they’ve been following him, freaks, and beats the crap out of Paul. Cue the next hour’s sluggish commitment to Paul’s commitment.

What bothered me here? At least in part it was a sense of distance, detachment, not irony but definitely judgment. Paul is an object of study, not a subject. This became explicit in a q&a with Siegel & Oswalt, where they talk about how stupid the guy is. Hm. It isn’t that he’s a schmoe, it’s the lack of a critical or aesthetic purpose to the filmmakers’ intent focus on this guy’s intent focus. The film could have been more pointed, more openly derisive–gone for the bleaker, blacker comedy, or tied Paul’s monomania into some more intriguing social or psychological insight. Yet Paul remained a blank, an oblique array of irritating tics and pouty-lipped anti-social behavior.

Even better would be a film committed to inhabiting Paul’s commitment: forcing us into a world where Paul makes sense — I’m not talking celebration, Paul-as-schmoe-become-underdog-and-true-fan. No, something knottier, where we get a better handle on what and why this means so much to Paul. The film reminded me of an atheist’s rigorous study of a fundamentalist, not simply mocking but neither was there any insight into the depth of this guy’s faith and fervor.

But maybe I missed it, maybe I didn’t get inside the film the way others have. Did any of you see/like this?

4 thoughts on “Big Fan

  1. Mike, did you ever see the original ‘Fever Pitch’ (not the Red Sox remake)? It had its problems, but it did make some effort to get inside the commitment of the fan.

  2. Colin Firth, right? I only avoided it because I didn’t want to sit through a long, potentially unfunny film while my wife drooled over Colin Firth. I’ll give it a go.

  3. I would recommend The Fan with Robert DeNiro. It’s a bad film in many ways (directed by Tony Scott, it includes all of his pointless and unnecessary tics) but it includes a great performance by De Niro, I think. It may mark one of the last moments when he cared (oddly enough, his character confronts his hero in the film and, while beating him, demands “Do you care now?”) I heard a good interview with Oswalt and Siegel on “Fresh Air” so I’ll probably see this, despite Mike’s thumbs-down.

Leave a Reply