You're not gonna get through to him. Nobody can.
One of my more eagerly anticipated films from last year was Big Fan, the directorial debut of Robert Siegel, who had previously scored with his original screenplay for The Wrestler. Further proof that Siegel has a knack for compelling underdog stories set in the milieu of sports, Big Fan gives Patton Oswalt a rare, non-animated leading role as Paul from Staten Island, a committed New York Giants fan who works as a parking lot attendant and still lives with his mother at the age of 36. What he really lives for, though, is going to Giants games with his pal Kevin Corrigan and calling up his favorite late-night sports radio show to talk trash about the team's competition and praise his idol, linebacker Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm). It's a comfortable enough life for somebody without much ambition (or the burning need to have his own car), but Oswalt's nagging mother (Marcia Jean Kurtz) is always on his case and clearly favors his older brother (Gino Cafarelli), an injury lawyer with his own home and family.
In addition to his mother, the other voice of aggravation in Oswalt's life is that of Philadelphia Phil (Michael Rapaport), a boastful Eagles fan who calls up his favorite show all the time running down the Giants, prompting Oswalt to meticulously compose his supposedly spontaneous rebukes. Then, one night and by pure chance, he and Corrigan spot Quantrell and his posse at a Staten Island gas station and follow them to a strip club in Manhattan where Oswalt gets the shit kicked out of him by his hero, which is the sort of thing that would test anyone's faith. Now he's being dogged by a police detective (Matt Servitto) who wants him to press charges, his brother wants him to sue Quantrell for millions and, worst of all, the Giants are losing big time while Quantrell's under suspension. What's a sports fanatic to do?
When Oswalt and Siegel appeared on NPR's Fresh Air to promote the film, Oswalt compared Big Fan to the kinds of low-key character studies that '70s Hollywood produced, which is a good way of viewing the film. Sure, the stakes are low for his character, but that's by his own choice. If he had never had his run-in with Quantrell his life could have conceivably gone on the way it was going indefinitely (or until his mother finally kicked him out, which is not beyond the realm of possibility). Indeed, by the end of the film it's clear that he's got a game plan and he's sticking with it, no matter how much of a dead end it seems to other people. Because let's face it, if somebody spends three days in a coma and the first thing they ask when they come out of it is how their team did that weekend, nothing short of divine intervention is going to get them to change their stripes.