It takes considerable effort to make Darren Aronofsky seem like a model of restraint, but Robert Siegel pulls it off in Big Fan. Siegel's screenplay for The Wrestler insisted on beating down Mickey Rourke at every turn, but Rourke's performance and Aronofsky's grounding direction fended off the almost comically over-the-top cavalcade of bad shit. In his debut as screenwriter anddirector, Siegel grinds down on rather than grounds his protag. Paul (Patton Oswalt) is a parking-garage attendant whose only pleasure is his nightly AM sports-radio call, on which he valiantly defends the Giants against Philly fans. Paul lives in Staten Island with his mother (Marcia Jean Kurtz), a shrieking harridan. We quickly understand that Paul's brother, Jeff (Gino Cafarelli), is no good because of his thick Guido accent, and that his wife (Serafina Fiore) is equally worthless because of her orange Real Housewives of New Jersey tan. Things go massively awry when, through a series of events involving a Times Square strip club, Paul inadvertently gets his QB idol suspended. Mental anguish ensues. Flawed though it was, this year's Observe and Report—another outsider black comedy—had the guts to present Seth Rogen's sociopathic mall cop without excuse or rationalization; the laughs came from the gap between his scary void and the reality around him. Big Faninstead chooses to beat up its clueless center so that we'll like him more, and then to surround him with familiar stereotypes to make him look more authentic. (Note: Oswalt is expected to attend the first Friday-evening show.)
Oswalt (left) lets the game get away from him.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., Sept. 18. Rated R. 90 minutes.