Jason Arment reviews The Fanatic, a psychological thriller directed by Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and starring John Travolta. (Quiver Distribution)
The Fanatic is a film I noticed at first glance because of John Travolta and also because of my renewed interest with Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit frontman) as director. While the band seems to be little more than a vehicle for Durst to make music, the film also seems to be a stalking horse used by Fred Durst and John Travolta to fulfill bucket-list fantasies. Whether filing guerilla on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, write and direct a movie, or run wild with improvisational acting, this film has something for every sunsetting Hollywood type.
John Travolta sets a tone that isn’t at all whimsical, and at times it seems outright misguided. No matter how you feel about it as a viewer, you’ll feel something. The problem is the film’s plot and story mechanics haven’t been gone over with the care and precision of a jeweler cutting and setting gemstone into a ring of precious metal. Fred Durst’s style seems to prohibit that, and while some of the film’s more artsy facets do help usher the movie with a flair of artistic whimsy that softens the rough edges, there is no way for post-production to turn cubic zirconia into diamond.
(The Fanatic movie poster)
The most troubling parts of the film are off-screen: how it’s never explained outright whether or not the character John Travolta plays is autistic. If he isn’t and he’s just a crazy person with an asymmetrical haircut acting strangely, that could potentially be offensive to people who are neurologically divergent. If the character is indeed autistic, then Fred Durst would ostensibly be scrutinized for ignoring autistic actors and instead allowing John Travolta to run amok on set, acting out what appears to be a caricature of an autistic person.
The film’s plot is an anecdote about a fan who goes way, way over the line, and then is met with the opposing force—a caricature of toxic masculinity. The Fanatic is a melodrama and doesn’t satisfy any real expectation I have for works of cinema. That being said, I could understand this film being taught in a writing class, as there is much to admire, and the shortcomings are of the sort most common and hardest to overcome in any work.