Big Fan | Drama/Dark Comedy | rated R (L) | starring Patton Oswalt | 1:35 mins

Paul Aufiero is 35, works at a parking garage toll both and lives with his mother. He does this because his life is football. Specifically the New York Giants. He spends his days worshiping Linebacker Quantrell Bishop and writing manifestos he delivers on a nightly sports talk radio show. When he meets his idol in a club one night, Bishop beats him into the hospital. Paul resists everyone’s advise to sue or prosecute the guy for getting Bishop out of the Giants lineup would be bad for his team.

If you’ve ever wondered who those guys who call into sports radio shows ranting about what’s going to happen on the field next Sunday, Big Fan has the answer for you – and it isn’t pretty. Written and directed by Robert Siegel, Fan is a portrait of a man whose entire life revolves around this team, so much so that everything else else has taken a backseat including independence, motivation and his own health and well being.

Where the movie carves out it’s identity in the way Siegel and star Patton Oswalt (proving he’s better than every role he’s had up until now) shape the character. Instead of making his obsession a symptom of being genuinely disturbed as another movie would approach the subject of obsession, Paul is more of just a normal boring guy who found something he loved and submerged himself in it while life passed him by. The master stroke is that Paul is happy. His lawyer brother (whose cheesy commercial is the movie’s biggest laugh) and nagging mother don’t understand Paul’s lack of motivation to follow the socially set path to “happiness” (dating -> marriage -> kids). His happiness has bred complacency and he moves in and out of it with the success or failure of his team – just as another would move in and out of it with the success or failure of a relationship or a job.

The choices of sports as the protagonist’s obsession is an on-the-nose one. There is clearly an American obsession with football, Siegel and Oswalt have just taken that love of the game up a few degrees with Paul. I love that his radio rants are really written and well-rehearsed speeches. Though a darkly comic look at these men, ultmately Siegel’s story does not settle into simply beating up on Paul. Instead turning him into a man of action in the third act, a finale that is brought to a riviting boil and an immensely satisfying low-key conclusion.

I dug the movie. Oswalt is great and I appreciated the trajectory of his character that resists both the Hollywood and the dark independent film course, falling somewhere in the refreshing middle. Big Fan hits the right notes. It’s narrowly focused and darkly funny with it’s head wrapped well around obsession’s potential without getting too outrageous with it.