THE FANATIC (Dir. by Fred Durst, 88 minutes, USA, 2019)
BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC No one is more familiar with the fickle and bizarre nature of fame and fandom than Limp Bizkit’s backwards-baseball-cap-wearing bro-dawg front man Fred Durst who had the world turn on him almost as fast as it embraced him. Since his precipitous descent from rap-rock stardom Durst has since ingrained himself in Hollywood, trying his hand at acting and even hosting a weekly jazz night at a Magic Club that was inspired by La La Land. So, when I heard he was directing a film starring John Travolta, fresh off Gotti, I almost didn’t believe it, but honestly deep down inside I kind of wanted it to be true.
Well the film was real, it’s called The Fanatic and it hits theaters next week and the short of it is, it’s actually pretty damn good and is arguably one of Travolta’s best performances in recent memory. Really. John Travolta plays Moose, a mentally handicapped fanboy clad in Hawaiian shirts and a mullet who hunts for autographs and memorabilia by day and by night he’s a costumed panhandler trolling Hollywood’s Walk Of Fame. The Fanatic chronicles Moose as he crosses the muddy line from superfan to stalker, haunting his favorite horror actor Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa). The film treads a very fine line with our protagonist and is very clear to show that his actions are never quite malicious in their intent, it’s just that he lacks social skills because of his handicap. The problem is after getting the attention of Dunbar when he confronts him at an autograph session, Moose keeps going back for more and, in short order, goes too far — way too far. The film is also makes it clear that Dunbar is narcissistic manipulator who gets satisfaction from bullying Moose, even though he can tell he is not completely all there.
The thing that makes this film work as frighteningly well as it does is Travolta’s all-in performance and Durst’s surprisingly thoughtful script and precision direction, which scrapes the underbelly of Hollywood and looks at fandom through a very jaundiced lens. I’ve been to a ton of conventions and I’ve met more than one Moose in my day, and Travolta not only nails the mannerisms, but also the feverish adulation and undying devotion that goes along with it. Durst also shockingly manages to keep you firmly in Moose’s corner for the entire length of the film. No matter what he does, I felt for the man and Durst never lets you abandon him either. This part of the film may not be for everyone, because Moose crosses a line, and things do get pretty damn dark, but the guy who wrote a song called “Break Stuff” totally pulled that shit off. So, I guess Durst ultimately will have the last laugh since word is I wasn’t the only one impressed by his meta meditation on fandom and now I can’t wait to see what he does next.