Travolta continues to be stuck in career purgatory and won’t find another comeback in this exploitative trash.
I was under the impression that films like The Fanatic died off like Reebok Pumps or the Nu-Metal band Puddle of Mudd, in the mid to late ’90s. Why explore the finite relationship fans have with the stars they love by creating characters with development disorders like Autism or Asperger’s as an excuse to write in motivation or excuse to do inexcusable things? The writers show such a little understanding of these disorders, they take a short-sighted, clearly manipulative path to create unkempt thrillers instead of taking a mature look at the price of fame or the cost of fanaticism or an intimate look at behavior disorders. Sadly, the latest John Travolta excuse to tumble into career mediocrity takes the sensational way out, in a way that films like Big Fan or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford never could. It’s a limp and lazy attempt to make a thriller by exploiting a disorder with little understanding of its social hindrance.
Travolta stars as Moose, a man who is a fan of the scream “king” actor Hunter Dunbar (played by Devon Sawa). After some hapless luck by missing an opportunity to get an autograph, he enlists the help of a young photographer, Leah (Ana Golja of Degrassi: The Next-Generation fame), who shows him a star map to locate Dunbar’s house to get the scribble he has been obsessed with obtaining. Soon, he locates the residence, is chased off multiple times by Dunbar, which eventually leads to that unfortunate side character that falls victim to the stalker before gaining access to his destination.
The Fanatic is a drab, hopelessly dull, charmless, and typical Hollywood B-movie that thinks it’s smarter than it is without having anything intelligent to say on the subject of fame or behavioral disabilities. The Fanatic was directed and co-written by Fred Durst, the frontman for the off again, on again rock-rap band Limp Bizkit. Like his music, this film is stuck in a decade that is meant for audiences without a social conscience, that is smarter, more mature, and is more finicky than ever on what they watch and how they view it. Strangely, the film does have a smidgen of visual flair, which is owed to its respected cinematographer Conrad W. Hall, son of the great Oscar-Winning Conrad L. Hall (American Beauty, A Civil Action). The younger Hall has a good resume, so it’s shocking he would be involved in a film like this.
There have been so many great films on the subject of obsessions, isolationism, and toxic masculinity in recent years. It seems strange to exploit a group of men or women suffering from behavioral disorders and embellish the levels of social cues and empathy one can’t relate to for their fellow man or woman without anything else to say about our culture that doesn’t rise above “trash” cinema; which would be an insult to that subsection film genre in the first place. It’s the equivalent, as the legend goes before Rob Reiner gave his two-cents, of Good Will Hunting being made into a movie about a group of terrorists who take over MIT, with Matt Damon’s Hunting going full John McClain because he can solve math problems and has the emotional temperament to take a bat to your head if one of his friends asks. That would be at least fun or condoned. This is one more limp notch in the Travolta filmography bedpost that has gotten worse with every passing year this decade. He is stuck in career purgatory and won’t find another comeback in exploitative trash like The Fanatic.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.