The world of 35 year old parking lot cashier Paul Aufiero is limited. The self professed “world’s Biggest NY Giants fan” played by Patton Oswalt sits in his 4 x 6 ft cashier’s box and listens to sports radio all day long. Between collecting parking fees and making change, he jots down and rehearses his “impromptu” rant for his regular sports radio call-in contribution after midnight as his alter ego, “Paul from Staten Island.” He still lives at home with his mom (Marcia Jean Kurtz) in a room decorated in a junior high school motif of sports posters, newspaper clippings and dirty laundry scattered about. Save his devoted sidekick Sal (Kevin Corrigan) who is seemingly every bit as one dimensional, Paul has no friends. His family thinks he’s a loser and treats him accordingly. Writer-Director Robert Siegel (The Wrestler) portrays Aufiero as lovingly pathetic and we find ourselves laughing both with him and at him throughout the course of the movie.
His infatuation results in an interesting chain of events mid-way through that introduces another side of Paul Aufiero. It takes the concept of devoted sports fan to a whole new level – one which pits his own self interest against that of Paul’s beloved hero, Giant’s star Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm) and ultimately the team itself, which is battling their nemesis Philadelphia Eagles for a playoff berth. Through the ensuing dilemma we realize the depths of his loyalty and self-sacrifice for the good of what he truly believes to be a greater cause. Despite the urging of his family, Paul continually refuses to consider seeking personal compensation or even to pursue the execution of justice in fear that it would hurt his team’s chances of achieving its goal. In this sense Siegel is exploring the human ability for self-sacrifice in the name of our ideals.
But loyalty is not purely virtuous and throughout The Big Fan we are reminded of the potential dark side of blind faith to a religion, nation, or cause through the portrayal of each team’s equally unquestioning fan base. Paul’s talk radio nemesis, Philadelphia Phil (Michael Rappaport) behaves in much the same way for example, but is portrayed as the personification of evil, evidently because the Eagles play without benefit of God on their side.
The Big Fan appeared at the 2009 Sundance Festival, experienced a cup of coffee in the big leagues through a limited commercial release in the Fall of 2009 and was featured at the 2010 Stony Brook Spring Film Series. It is now available on DVD through Netflix – well worth putting on your list.