The Fanatic (2019) – dir. Fred Durst / starring John Travolta, Devon Sawa, Ana Golja
Synopsis: The Fanatic follows the story of “Moose” (John Travolta), an autistic mullet-wearing film buff who works as a street performer on Hollywood Boulevard. Moose has been a huge movie fan all of his life, and his all time favorite is Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa) who plays in action/horror films. When Moose detects that Dunbar is ungrateful for Moose’s praises even through his rough patches of film career, he takes action. Upon their first meeting, Moose claims that Dunbar forgot to sign his merchandise and Dunbar tells him to learn some manners and does not take his praise or awkward tendencies too kindly. A friend of Moose’s, Leah (Ana Golja) shows him an app that lets you find celebrity houses in the area of Hollywood. Of course, Moose finds Dunbar’s house and begins to visit. Upon multiple visits, Dunbar warns and warns Moose to stay away from his house and especially his son. Abusing the app and not acknowledging Dunbar’s advice, he begins to abuse the power the he now holds. One visit leads to another, and at one point Dunbar is home while Moose is in the house. He sneakily makes his way without getting caught, and begins to hang out with Dunbar while he’s sleeping, taking pictures of himself with a sleeping Dunbar to post on his social media. Leah warns Moose of this behavior, and claims he can be criminalized for such activities, but Moose is oblivious to the fact. Upon the final visit, Dunbar is tied up by Moose only to be let go by using his acting skills to persuade him that he’s on Moose’s side.
This movie is kind of a mixed bag. Everything I had seen about this film before going into it was negative, but a few positive reviews of the flick had really stuck out to me on IMDb. There are a few things this movie gets right, but a lot just feels so empty. Yeah, I was just as surprised as you are to see that Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit directs movies.
The sense of direction that this movie takes leads a lot of plot holes. It’s split fairly even, while a good portion of the film shows Leah and Moose having a discourse and the other half being Moose managing to consistently get in Dunbar’s way. There’s not much that was added that wasn’t necessary to the film, but a lot of the choices that were made weren’t really on the ball either. Some of the shots displaying Travolta’s character came off as a bit corny at times- corny in the same way that Rosie O Donnell’ is corny in Riding the Bus with my Sister (2005). Moose having autism didn’t add much to the film besides a reasoning for his social awkwardness and oblivious tendencies, but there were a lot of more clever ways that this could have been done instead of just passing it off as him being autistic just to save the writers some time and thought processing. The film lacks a lot of narrative, but it definitely doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s clear to see that Durst and Travolta took influence from stories such as Misery by Stephen King – a novel focusing on the dynamic of a popular writer and a psychotic fan.
Visually this film does a really good job at doing what it needs to do. The shots of Moose inside Dunbar’s house stand out particularly well, with outstanding choices of lighting and dark yet full colors to really lay down a intense yet calm mood. Which makes sense, this is a horror film that doesn’t really rely on any jump scares at all, instead depending on build-up to lead to intensity only to resolve in the slightest bit possible. The landscape shots didn’t really help to expand on this film’s environment, it seems as if they were going to make the film seem a lot more big than it actually turned out to be. We’re instead left with a rather close knitted environment that only focuses on no more than four characters. Which of course – a perfectly fine thing to do, but it seems a bit back and forth in trying to figure out what exactly the film wants to be. Most of the film consists of medium to wide range shots, not many close ups throughout it’s duration.
This film is displaying a message that talks about the separation between the fan and the artist; if it weren’t for the fans, the artist would be nothing. Which is definitely true to an extent, even with the size of Hollywood in this current day and age it’s hard for some people to really see the humanity in an artist. And the same thing goes for the artists, it’s hard to see the humanity in some of the fans. The execution of this film is rather dry, after watching this film it was like I had to really search for a meaning rather than slowly coming to me giving a more natural feeling to it all. The film’s narrative is just dry and uninspired, which is unfortunate due to the potential this film could have had.
The Bottom Line
If you want to see a movie that’s got a dry plot but focuses on some striking visual choices, than maybe this is your thing. It’s only around ninety minutes in length, so it’s not like you’ll miss too much time in the real world dealing with this one. Overall, the film lacks a lot of plot and character development, leaving an artificial feeling of what is portrayed, and the film practically tells the audience how to feel due to it’s lack of emotional appeal.
The Fanatic is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.