Big Fan is a deep little movie about a shallow Giants fan.
Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt) is a very big giants fan. He watches the games, listens to the post-game commentary on the radio, and carefully composes what he’ll say on the call-in sports shows. Success, to Paul, is sounding good on the air and goading the Eagles fans.
Paul is an unlovable loser. By day he’s a booth attendant at a parking garage. He’s a late-thirtysomething single man who lives with his mother, and he doesn’t aspire to anything better.
(Spoilers ahead.) In particular, Paul is a fan of a defensive pla
QB gets in trouble with the law for having assaulted someone in a club, and the Giants suspend him while the authorities investigate, and the team’s outlook darkens without their star defender.
Everyone knows someone like Paul. Maybe we’re even like him, to some degree (go Broncos!). But this is no arena-league lightweight film. Think about the story and you’ll find lots on its mind.
At the most superficial level, it shows how we live vicariously through “our” team’s achievements. We say “we” won, not “they” won, and the day after a victory all is right with the world.
Then there’s the irony of being destroyed by the thing you love (and vice-versa). Paul’s devotion looks a little like an abusive relationship. Rather than leave or fight back, he makes excuses for and protects the abuser.
Choosing The Low Road
But what I liked best about Big Fan is that it’s also about choosing a mediocrity that makes you happy over an ambition that does not. Paul likes being a toll-booth attendant precisely because it lets him be a Giants fan, listen to talk radio, and compose screeds while at work. If he had a more challenging job, he couldn’t do any of that. Paul’s family heaps pressure on him to strive for more, and he has a hard time convincing them that he’s absolutely not interested.
I read an eye-opening book by a man who calls himself “Dishwasher Pete.” Dishwashing was the perfect job for him, he said, because he could always leave a place when he got sick of it, and always find work when he got where he was going. A “better” job wouldn’t let him do that.
His story may not make a great film, but the spirit of choosing your own road, even if others see it as the “low” road is fresh and alive in Big Fan. The day after you see it, all will be right in the world.