I wanted this to be great. I was pulled in by the complete ‘what the fuckness’ of Fred Durst directing John Travolta in a feature film. Limp Bizkit and Vincent fucking Vega? Curiosity had me by the balls. Inspired by true events, The Fanatic follows the judicial decline of celebrity obsessed fan boy, Moose. Excited beyond control, Moose has the opportunity to meet his favourite movie star of all time, Hunter Dunbar, at a book signing. Moose is next in line to get an autograph when Dunbar is pulled away for family commitments. Unsatisfied with his lack of celebrity interaction, Moose follows him outside to acquire a signature but Dunbar is less than willing to comply. Moose feels let down so he begins to stalk and torment Dunbar.
As a character, Moose is a joke. He clearly has autism, which is never mentioned, but the autistic tendencies hit you square in the face the moment you see him. This should be a positive thing and Travolta’s performance should be commended but no. It’s too forced and juvenile. Nothing is subtle about his portrayal of someone with autism to the point of it being disrespectfully offensive. I’m sure that wasn’t the intention of either Durst or Travolta but that was the outcome. Moose’s clear disability goes unmentioned, which can go one of two ways. It means that the people he interacts with are already aware and just treat him the same as anyone else. Or that everyone around him is completely fucking oblivious. I’m leaning towards the latter. That aside, Moose has a few acquaintances that all seem to pity or bully him for the same reason; his vulnerability. It’s never explained how Leah and Moose meet, initially I thought there was a family connection somewhere but they are just friends. This is confusing as Leah looks about 15 and is a photographer/paparazzi. I can envision how someone like this would know of Moose, but he is obviously not someone you should be helping out with his celebrity obsession by handing out Hollywood addresses! Their relationship bordered on creepy and inappropriate.
The true events that brought The Fanatic to fruition actually happened to the Limp Bizkit frontman himself. Which begs the question, who is the protagonist here? Dunbar acts like a complete shit house to Moose, but is that enough to condemn the man to the subject of torture? Dunbar has a young son that he is trying to protect. Moose claims to never want to hurt him but how would Dunbar know that? He feels threatened by Moose’s presence in his neighborhood, with good fucking reason! Nothing warrants the actions that Moose takes. But the film spends quite a lot of time trying to generate sympathy for Moose. Dunbar is the spoiled celebrity arsehole. Moose is just a fan, seeking an autograph. And that seems to justify home invasion and murder? If this is something that Durst actually went through, at least partially, who does he want the audience to root for? Or does Durst hate himself that much that he now empathises with the fan who pursued him?
Is this a vanity project gone too far? I mean, it’s not good. It’s not the worst movie I have ever seen but it’s pretty fucking far from good. And that’s a shame. The core concept isn’t anything new but it had potential to be interesting at the very least. Even with a shameless and totally unneeded Limp Bizkit plug, this could have been something. If Durst continues to make films I hope he takes the colossal barrage of criticism about The Fanatic as a learning curve. Perhaps experience will allow him the chance to make amends. However, John Travolta should know better.
Dir: Fred Durst
Scr: Fred Durst, Dave Bekerman
Cast: John Travolta, Devon Sawa, Ana Golja, Jacob Grodnik
Prd: Fred Durst, John Travolta, Oscar Generale, Daniel Grodnik, Bill Kenwright
DOP: Conrad W. Hall
Music: Blvck Ceiling, Gary Hickeson, John Swihart
Run time: 88 minutes
Dazzler Media presents The Fanatic on Digital Download 8th June and DVD 20th July 2020