Big Fan (R)

Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt) and his best friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) in Big Fan. FIRST INDEPENDENT PICTURES

Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt) works the night shift in an underground Staten Island parking lot. He mans the booth and the electronic arm that lets drivers in and out. He’s 35 and lives at home with his mother. He has one buddy. And he doesn’t have a girlfriend.

Total loser, right? Well, not exactly. In Robert Siegel’s odd and darkly humorous Big Fan, Paul does have a passion — for the New York Giants. Along with his goofball pal, Sal (Kevin Corrigan), Paul ardently follows the season, trekking to the Meadowlands on Sundays to take their prized seats: in the stadium parking lot.

A total football nerd who calls in to 760 The Zone, the sports-radio station, and offers his ranting post-game critiques, Paul seems strangely content with his life — a fact that his mother (an unmercifully nagging Marcia Jean Kurtz) and his successful lawyer brother (Gino Cafarelli) can’t understand. And when Paul has an ill-fated encounter with the Giants’ star player, linebacker Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm), this self-described “world’s biggest New York Giants fan” faces a dilemma that goes to the core of his being.

Written and directed by Siegel — who scripted The Wrestler, another keenly observed portrait of an outcast sports figure — Big Fan shares a nutty kinship with the obsessive-loner pictures of Martin Scorsese, namely Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. And while Oswalt is no De Niro, the stand-up comic brings a schlumpy pathos to his portrait that shows depth and dimension.

Siegel, in his debut as director, shot the low-budget Big Fan on a digital camera and achieves an appropriately grimy, gritty look. He has an eye for the telling detail and for the comedy in tragedy. As Big Fan heads toward its stormy conclusion — and to Philadelphia, for a face-off between Paul and his contentious counterpart, a diehard Eagles fan — the question of loyalty looms large. Not just loyalty to a sports franchise, and to its players and coaches, stats and strategies, but loyalty to oneself, one’s ideals, and one’s dreams. Even if those dreams don’t amount to much.

Cast: Patton Oswalt, Michael Rapaport, Joe Garden, Serafina Fiore; Marcia Jean Kurtz.

Director/screenwriter: Robert D. Siegel.

Producers: Elan Bogarin, Jean Kouremetis.

A First Independent Pictures release. Running time: 86 minutes. Language, some sexuality. Playing in Miami-Dade only: Cosford.



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