"I can't tell you how sick I am." That is the first line of Big Fan (2009), writer Robert Siegel's directing debut. The line is uttered by the lead character, Paul (Patton Oswalt), an obsessively devoted New York Giants fan, as he rehearses a tirade to be delivered later that evening on a sports talk radio call-in show. This is a nightly ritual, and it is one of the biggest, and only, parts of his small life. Over the course of the film, we come to learn just how apt that line really is.
Siegel is most recently known as the Onion editor turned screenwriter who penned the Mickey Rourke comeback vehicle The Wrestler, and Big Fan is very much in the same vein, in that the film follows it's lonely subject through an episode in his life that challenges everything that he feels is right.
One night, while out with his admiring and lone friend Sal (a Christopher Walken-esque Kevin Corrigan), Paul catches a glimpse of his favorite player, Quantrell Bishop. Without hesitation, the two follow Bishop from Staten Island to a strip club in Manhattan, where, due to a misunderstanding, the drunken athlete beats Paul to unconsciousness. He wakes three days later in a hospital bed, and the first thing he wants to know is the score of the latest Giants game. Horrified to learn that not only did they loose, but that Bishop, their star player, has been suspended as a result of the assault on Paul, he refuses to cooperate with the police investigation. What follows is a harrowing and fascinatingly original journey into the depths of guilt, loyalty, obsession, and revenge.
The writing is brilliant, the direction assured, the digital cinematography beautiful and dynamic, but the main attraction here is Patton Oswalt. Known to many as one of the great comedians of his generation, Oswalt has made appearances on the big and small screen in mostly supporting, character-actor roles, but with his stellar work in Big Fan, he soars to a higher echelon; he joins that rarefied fraternity of comedic actors who have proven they can blow the doors off serious drama. As Paul's dilemma unfolds, Oswalt takes us to a dark, dark place; the struggle and pain on display is frightening, heartbreaking, and unwaveringly honest.