Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt) has a dead-end job and lives with his mother. He doesn’t date and spends his nights listening to sports talk-radio and masturbating. He’s 35.

And he couldn’t be happier.

His happiness is at its peak during football season and as long as his beloved New York Giants are on top, he’s on top. He’s a super fan, you might say. He wears his favorite player Quantrell Bishop’s jersey and decorates his child-like bedroom with Bishop memorabilia.

Despite his Giants obsession, he never makes it to an actual game. He and his buddy Sal (Kevin Corrigan) spend game days in the stadium parking lot listening to the game on the radio.

Paul’s fanaticism is tested when he finds out (the hard way) that his hero isn‘t who he thought he was.
Will Paul change his feelings for his hero or is he too big a fan to bring down his favorite player? What happens after is a downward spiral into darkness and despair.

Director/screenwriter Robert Siegel (“The Wrestler”) gives us the perfect mixture of  dark humor and drama. And I haven’t seen a less predictable movie in a long time. There’s a point when you feel like the movie went from comedy to horror. Some might call that a bad thing. I call it breath of fresh air. It’s nice to be surprised by a movie again.

Oswalt is perfect for this role. I was surprised at how few laughs he generated, but was more surprised at how serious an actor he can be. This role could (and should) open some doors for him.

“Big Fan” is a character study at its best. At first you think you should feel sorry for this guy. Then you think he’s a complete idiot. Then you want to strangle him. But in the end, you realize he’s just a guy living his life the way he wants to.

We should all be that lucky.  B+

“Big Fan” (Rated R) opens in select theaters Friday.

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