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'Big Fan': The Defeat Of A Football Fantasy
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'Big Fan': The Defeat Of A Football Fantasy



We don't know if the Mongolian horse races will be discussed on sports radio. But if they did come up, they might draw some comments from people like the main character of a new movie. Kenneth Turan has our Friday morning review of "Big Fan."

KENNETH TURAN: The big fan in question is Paul, a 36-year-old Staten Island parking lot attendant. What he really lives for, however, is being a call-in voice in a late-night sports talk radio program.

(Soundbite of movie, "Big Fan")

Unidentified Man #1: Let's go to my boy Paul in Staten Island. He always brings the leverage. What's on your mind, brother?

Mr. PATTON OSWALT (Actor): (as Paul Aufiero) Hey, Sports Talk. How you doing? I'm just calling to say I can't wait for this Sunday, when we finally shut these Philly clowns up once and for all.

TURAN: Paul's particular hero is a marauding linebacker named Quantrell Bishop. So imagine how excited he is when he catches a glimpse of Bishop at a local gas station and decides on impulse to follow him no matter where it leads. It leads to violence and a visit to the hospital.

(Soundbite of movie, "Big Fan")

Mr. OSWALT: (as Paul Aufiero) So I'm going to be okay?

Unidentified Woman: You sustained some pretty heavy trauma, but long run, you should be. We do need to keep you another few days for observation.

Mr. OSWALT: (as Paul Aufiero) Another few days? How long have I been here?

Unidentified Woman: Three days.

TURAN: It's not surprising that Robert Siegel is the writer/director behind "Big Fan." He's the writer of "The Wrestler," and both films share a feeling for the people who live on the fringes of professional sports. With this film, Siegel does the directing himself, and that pays dividends. The filmmaker neither denigrates, nor idealizes Paul. He may not even particularly like him, but he does respect the ferocity of his obsessions.

"Big Fan" lets us see Paul as someone who has found something that sustains him, a passion his bourgeois relatives can't understand. Seeing this film brought back a personal memory, a recollection of being a young sportswriter for the Washington Post. I was in the press box, next to the great essayist Heywood Hale Broun as 50,000 fans screamed like banshees at a Washington Redskins home opener at RFK stadium. I gave Broun a questioning look, and he just shrugged. Speaking elegantly above the din, he said, to the eternal question, who am I? I am a Redskins fan provides a convenient answer. It always has, and if "Big Fan" is any indication, it likely always will.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. And you can see Paul the sports fan tailgate and trash talk in film clips at our Web site,

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