It is insane to think that Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit (you know, the guy who did it all for the nookie) has directed three films. It’s like discovering that a frat bro who took a film studies class in college because he thought all he’d have to do is ‘watch movies for a grade’ became an auteur filmmaker. I’ve not seen either of his previous films (The Education of Charlie Banks, Longshots), but the moment I saw the trailer for his latest film I knew I had to see it. Durst swings for the fences with his half baked critique of fandom and celebrity culture and crafted the gloriously awful The Fanatic.
Oh yes, believe the hype! The Fanatic may very well be the best/worst film of 2019 (unless of course Cats steals the crown in December). Now let’s dig into this film, discuss why it cannot be taken seriously, and why it may very well earn a spot beside Troll 2, Manos: Hands of Fate, and The Room.
Moose (John Travolta) is a jack of all trades. A collector of autographs and film memorabilia, a costumed performer on the Walk of Fame, and caricature of an autistic man. When he is spurned at an autograph signing by genre actor and personal hero Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa). Moose begins to lose what little grasp he has on reality. This is a story that isn’t all that fresh. Better films have explored the cracking psyche of a man and how his obsession of another person is toxic. The main problem is neither Moose nor Hunter are sympathetic characters. There are times where we’re suppose to sympathize with both, but it often gets undercut by their reactions.
“I can’t talk too long. I gotta poo.”
I’m sure Durst and co-writer Dave Bekerman thought this was a more ‘realistic’ approach to these characters, but it causes disconnect with the audience. Sure, Moose has a pervasive personality disorder that makes him socially tone deaf, but that doesn’t negate breaking into a person’s home. Hunter’s life is on the rocks dealing with an ex-wife while raising a son, but that’s no excuse for verbally and physically threatening a man who obviously has issues. Plot aside, the script also has some of the most gleefully terrible dialogue of recent memory. We have not just Moose and Hunter spouting with inane jumbles of words into hodgepodged sentences, but Ana Golja has the thankless task of providing voiceover used to try filling in plot cracks. This leads to one of my all time favorite lines, “Moose didn’t just cross the line. He fucking nuked it!”
And yet, we have yet to dig into some of the odd and ludicrous choices Durst made as a director. The Fanatic opens with a quote from the character of Hunter before we even know who he is, which made no sense. The art used for act transitions felt like an afterthought to try and make the film more ‘artistic’. But the craziest moment has to be a scene where Hunter is driving. He turns on the radio and blasts Limp Bizkit. If that’s not bad enough he begins to tell his son how awesome this band was back in the day. Gee, I hope 3 From Hell will have a scene where the Firefly family crank White Zombie and fawn over the band’s musical genius.
“Are you out of your mind?”
I will say that given the script the acting isn’t completely horrible. Travolta seems to be trying to one up his former co-star Nicolas Cage on who can chew the most scenery. It’s an over the top performance, but at least it adds to the entertainment value rather than detracting. Sawa tries doing something a little more serious, but can’t help but get pulled into Travolta’s orbit. Their scenes together have a goofy energy making them gloriously watchable. Poor Ana Golja tries to be the straight person and does her best, but with everything going on the performance felt out of place amongst the madness.
The film concludes with an ending that makes little to no sense and is probably Durst’s way of trying to give the story some ambiguity. I could dissect it, but I think that’s giving it way too much credit. John Stewart once described Travolta’s Battlefield Earth as, “A cross between Star Wars and the smell of ass.” If that’s the case The Fanatic is a cross between Misery/The King of Comedy and the smell of ass. Believe me, I mean that in the best way possible. I cannot assign a star rating to this film, but I do give it my stamp of approval. Get some friends together, crack open some beers, and enjoy this film in the most ironic way possible.
Overall Score: I AM NOT A STALKER!